While I wouldn’t consider myself a tom-boy, I grew up playing sports, riding bikes outside with the neighbor kids, and taking dance classes just like a lot of my peers. When I pictured myself raising kids, I pictured the same things for them. After I had my first baby, the visions of these childhood activities dwindled.
Jaxlee was born with Cerebral Palsy (more on her story here), and things like playing soccer, riding bikes, and even dancing seemed impossible for her. I grieved the fact that while my friends were taking their kids to art class and the park for play dates, we were always on our way to therapy or a doctor’s appointment. This clearly wasn’t what I had envisioned as far as “extracurricular activities” go.
But when Jaxlee got on a horse for the first time at age 2– everything changed for me and for her.
Since March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness month, I wanted to highlight a significant part of Jaxlee’s CP journey– and her journey as a kid.
When she got on that horse, she wasn’t limited by her disability. She didn’t have a walker or wheelchair helping her ambulate (move). The horse manipulated her body in ways that no other created thing can do (the research and science behind this is fascinating). She was unknowingly doing therapy (and working her tail off) while riding the horse and doing something fun.
This was the moment we both fell in love with therapeutic riding. She had her scheduled riding session every week that we would look forward to. We got to pick out “equipment” for her riding sessions like cute cowgirl boots, riding outfits, and a custom helmet that also just made the experience more fun and feel like a typical kid activity.
Riding horses quickly became “her thing”. It was the activity I had been unknowingly dreaming about for her. Friends and family had the opportunity to come watch her ride and perform, just the way they would if she was playing in a soccer game or dance recital. She earned medals and awards for her efforts and she was recognized for all her hard work and improvements on the horse.
Because of horse therapy, Jaxlee and other children with disabilities get to experience the freedom of childhood. They get their own version of a soccer game with a crowd cheering their name. As a mom who wants to give her daughter every opportunity to thrive, horse therapy makes that possible.
We celebrate Cerebral Palsy Awareness every day in our home. Every day, Jaxlee amazes us with her perseverance and positivity. She’s got the odds stacked against her. But with the support of the special needs community and places like the Shea Center and Spirit Horse Connections (and all other riding facilities) kiddos the opportunity to have an activity that is not limited to the child’s ability.