Equestrian and Otherwise
This was easy for me to write but extremely difficult to share. My daughter insisted it would help others and was determined that I share her story. After all, that’s the kind of person she is. Cameron is special, as all children are in their own way. She is sassy, confident, and intelligent. She also has cerebral palsy.
We don’t know when she had the stroke, or “brain bleed” as she calls it, but she was diagnosed at 18 months old. She met every developmental milestone and can do anything. The only difference is she has to work harder than others.
For those of you who don’t know what cerebral palsy is, I’ll let the Cerebral Palsy Alliance tell you:
“Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term that refers to a group of disorders affecting a person’s ability to move. It is due to damage to the developing brain either during pregnancy or shortly after birth.
Cerebral palsy affects people in different ways and can affect body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. Although cerebral palsy is a permanent life-long condition, some of these signs of cerebral palsy can improve or worsen over time.”
There are many pediatric strokes survivors in the world, although it is a little talked of topic.
Cameron has never known any differently. While she may get frustrated at times, especially as she gets older, she is a fighter and good luck to the person who tries to tell her what to do.
Therapeutic Horse Riding
When Cameron was 4 years old she was recommended by Early Intervention to a local therapeutic horse riding center. Special People United to Ride (SPUR) has been a source of comfort, confidence, and excitement for Cameron these last 4 years. We are extremely lucky to have it so close to home.
I first brought Cameron to meet a horse when she was 18 months old. She fed the horses carrots and squealed with excitement. As an equestrian myself I knew the benefits of therapeutic riding.
I spoke with Cameron’s trainer about our goals when she started. I wanted her to have the occupational therapy and physical therapy benefits of therapeutic riding. But it was also important to learn to ride independently and handle a horse.
Therapeutic Riding Teaches My Daughter the Following:
- Core Strength
Yes, Cameron has learned all of the above but she has also learned more
that expected. First, to ask nicely but firmly. When working with horses you cannot be shy; don’t give up and don’t give in. Second, go with the flow. It’s not easy to attend a horse show with a horse you haven’t ridden in a year, because your regular pony is sick. But as Cameron learned, you have to keep moving forward and be okay when life becomes unexpected. Third, be a good sport. My daughter is gracious to the other riders, kind to her horse, and no matter the ribbon she receives she leaves with a smile on her face. Last but not least, my daughter has learned the utmost confidence in herself. Any one who meets my daughter says “I would never know she had a stroke”. We worked really hard to accomplish that. This is a true testament to her personality, she simply shines.
My Daughter is My Hero
I am a timid rider. Sure, I’ve come leaps and bounds over the years but my kid blows me away. She has zero fear, which is terrifying. Apparently while she likes horse shows with flat classes, she prefers to jump. I am informed that not only does she want to be a pop star, teacher, and mother but also a Grand Prix jumper. She makes a conscious decision to challenge herself and take the more difficult path. Something that I have difficulty with in my own life.
Like me, Cameron feels strongly for her animal friends. She has a favorite horse, Woody, that she is madly in love with. We all have one animal who is special to us and I’m happy she’s found that connection.
I’ve often joked that Cameron would never leave her friends and the horses at SPUR, and she agrees. She has gained skill and confidence and can certainly ride at my barn with “typical” lessons. As if she would let me. She is loyal and true.She rides there even though we recently bought a pony of our own. I am so grateful to our friends in the PATH-certified* program for all they have given us.
There are a lot of things I can learn from my daughter. While she has challenges other kids don’t, she is open, honest, and kind. My daughter is someone that I respect and admire. She is my hero, equestrian and otherwise.
Are you feeling inspired? Share now to spread the message.
*PATH INTERNATIONAL. Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.), a federally-registered 501(c3) nonprofit, was formed in 1969 as the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association to promote equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) for individuals with special needs.