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Riding Improves Young Girl's Ambulation

When Katelyn first started coming to Ride On St. Louis on Monday mornings in 2010, her school teachers saw such changes in her focus and behavior that they questioned how this was happening and what it was she did before school on Mondays. Katelyn's grown in more ways than one when it comes to her adaptive riding sessions at Ride On St. Louis. Katelyn, who is nonverbal, has challenges with low tone and seizures. Each week when Katelyn visits, she works on achieving goals in her communication, behavior and strength. Due to Katelyn's hypotonia (low muscle tone), for most of her life Katelyn walked in a zig zag with little to no rhythm or flow to her gait. Katelyn's mom says, "the biggest benefit I have seen with Katie and riding is that she can now walk in a straight line."

Ride On St. Louis volunteer Kami, participant Katelyn and horse Pharma pose after a session

Katelyn uses sign language to help communicate with those around her. She is able to sign the words "walk on", "stop", "open" and "close" (for gates or doors) when she is working with her team at the barn. Katelyn is practicing a new sign this fall with her instructor Marita Wassman to convey one of her favorite activities with her horse Pharma-- "go fast." "Going fast" (trotting) while on horseback provides extra stimuli and challenges for Katelyn and may increase her respiration and engage her core and proprioception, which is a large contributor to her success in ambulating straighter. Katelyn can even ride in a two-point position (supporting herself from her inner thigh muscles with her seat off the saddle) while trotting uphill.

"Because of Katelyn's communication challenges, some people may find it hard to get to know her. Katelyn is so joyful and curious, and a young lady who loves music, attention, friendship and riding," says her instructor Marita. Katelyn has made many friends at Ride On St. Louis including her side-walkers Brian and Kami. Kami, who has been volunteering with Katelyn for the last several years, says "I’m so blessed to be a side-walker for this amazing young woman. Watching her progress makes my heart happy!"

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