Kelsey is l8 years old. She was born with cataracts and is blind in her left eye. She has epilepsy, her left side is partially paralyzed and she is developmentally delayed. The doctors said she would be lucky if she ever said a word.
Kelsey has been riding with us for several years now. Her good friend and mentor Sue brings her to ride each Tuesday. Her mom says she always looks forward to riding. She arrives in her cowboy boots and with a big grin when you greet her.
She rides Pepper and her volunteer is Jim. They are buddies. She giggles and laughs as Jim teases her and helps her through her lesson as instructions are given to navigate the course laid out on the ground by the senior instructor.
Kelsey, 18, has been named the Mounted Eagles Rider of the Quarter.
Kelsey is able to understand all that is said to her, but her verbal output is limited. That does not stop her from telling us what is going on in her life with prompts from Sue.
Mom says that since she has started to ride, her verbal skills have increased as well as her self confidence. She continues to learn new riding skills and her social skills have really improved.
Mom says that a person's reaction means something to her now, and she shows satisfaction if someone understands her and will attempt to repeat it if someone cannot. She talks about her riding and tries to get some of her friends to come and ride. She shows off her ribbons and trophies to visitors and shares with her mom what has been happening at her rides.
We give Kelsey choices. Kids like Kelsey are often "put in a box" by many people and not given the credit that they can improve. As Kelsey makes her decisions on how she wants to do something or what she wants to do, she is continually growing. She is learning skills that a lot of other kids are unable to learn and is proud of herself.
I have never seen Kelsey get impatient as we go over the exercises needed to achieve the task of the moment. She listens intently and remains focused as we practice these horsemanship skills. This is a lot for someone to remember and do all at once, but Kelsey can do it.
If you ever stop to see Kelsey, ask to see her ribbons and ask her how riding is going ... I'm sure you'll get to see that great smile of hers as her face lights up.
Mounted Eagles is committed to enhancing the lives of program participants, volunteers and the community by providing a safe and enjoyable environment where individuals with special needs benefit from therapeutic, developmental and educational equine-assisted activities. Services are provided to individuals from five counties within and surrounding the Brainerd Lakes area.
The program takes place at Four Winds Horse and Human Learning Center, 13860 Shawkia Drive in Brainerd. For more information about participating in the program as a rider or a volunteer, contact Aggie Stroot at (888) 828-9920 or (218) 568-3968. Check out the Mounted Eagles Web site at www.mountedeagles.org.
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