When Maddie first started therapy, this summer at New Heights, she was afraid of her horse. She cried and pleaded "All done, All done!!!" It took alot of diversions and familiar games and toys to get her past the initial shock of being up on a moving horse, but after a few sessions, she became more comfortable, and really enjoyed the ride. One of the first things she was taught was a basic command to make Stella go..."Walk On." Maddie always remembered to say "Whoa" to stop her, but never could remember how to make her start again. She's come so far since then.
Now she looks forward to seeing Stella. She waves at her and plays peek-a-boo through the fence. She's her friend.
Last weekend she was one of 3 featured riders, chosen to ride for the Garden Party at Summergrove Farms. This is a major fundraising event for New Heights, on a beautiful estate, and it was fabulous. It was an amazing honor to have Maddie be a part of it.
Here is a short clip of part of her ride...
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She was amazing. She waved, blew kisses, and chatted away with anyone who would listen. She rode Stella like a pro...forwards and backwards. She showed her stretching and reaching skills with the rings and toys, she did puzzles while maintaining her balance, and she posed for pictures at every turn of the course. She blew me away. And with her tiny voice, she commanded with complete clarity, "Walk On"...and Stella did. It was incredible.
Mason enjoyed the party as well, but most of the focus was, as usual, on his little sister. This is always in the back of my mind. I can't tell you how many times someone will be making a fuss over Maddie, and Mason will try to introduce himself, again, and again, and again. It absolutely kills me to hear him pipe up, "And I'm Mason," only to be cut off repeatedly. Usually by the third time I'll cut in and introduce him myself...then the person usually realizes and feels badly for ignoring him. I know it's not intentional...It's just so hard to see past the pigtailed pixie...but if they did, they'd see I have TWO amazing kids. And neither should ever be in the shadows, because they each deserve the chance to shine.
The people at New Heights realize this too. They see Mason come to every session, and climb the bleachers quietly while Maddie gets to ride a horse. Explaining to a 4-yr old why his baby sister gets to ride, but he doesn't, is a heartbreaking conversation...but he never argues about it. He is always content to wait patiently for the session to end so he can feed Stella a carrot. It's a simple routine, but it's HIS part, and he looks forward to it.
At the Garden Party, Maddie's trainer pulled us aside and told us they had a special surprise for Mason's birthday. At our next session a horse would be waiting just for him, and he would have his own private lesson. I was elated. Finally, it was his turn.
We arrived at the arena, and his eyes got huge when the trainers surprised him with HIS horse for the day. I watched him mount Kit Kat, and saw how nervous he was. His hands were trembling, and he looked like he might cry for a minute. The trainer calmly told Kit Kat to "walk on", and I watched Mason transform. Once he realized he could stay up there without problems, he was fine. He chatted away about our trip to the zoo, and the birthday party that was coming the next day. It was SO great to see him up there, so proud of himself. In one session he learned the basic commands, and how to steer using the reins. It was a week ago, and he hasn't stopped talking about it. I think riding lessons are inevitable at this point. :)
Both kids rode together, each cheering the other on, and it made my heart smile.
And in other news....October is Spina Bifida Awareness month. I know it sometimes gets lost in all the pink, but October is a special month for many reasons...and SB is one of them. If I'm being honest, I'm usually overly cautious about how much SB I put out there. I don't want that to be the first thing people think of when they think of us. Spina Bifida is a part of our lives, but it does not define Maddie, or our family. So, sometimes I'm hesitant to wear my t-shirt, put a sticker or my car, or repost things on FB. But the truth is, the chance of having a baby with SB is about 1 in 1500, and the only way to lower your risk is to take folic acid before pregnancy. And while these facts are so very important, if you learn one thing about SB this month, learn this: These kids are smart, funny, and completely capable of things beyond our imagination. I was the lucky 1 in 1500 that got Maddie, and I wouldn't change her for anything. She is perfect...SB and all.
This month we are helping to give back to an organization who continually gives so much to families like ours, and individuals like Maddie. SBGNO has been a tremendous support to our family from the very beginning. On October 30th Team Maddie will be bowling in the annual bowl-a-thon fundraiser for SBGNO. Please, please consider sponsoring our team! Any amount is appreciated...
Much love and thanks.