Karlee, now 15 years old, doesn’t focus on the therapeutic benefits she’s received during her time riding at STAR (Shangri-La Therapeutic Academy of Riding). But her mom, Linda, sure does!
Karlee has been coming to STAR since first grade. In 2011 when she was 12, Karlee had a stroke from an injury at a water-park, affecting her cerebellum – the part of the brain controlling balance and coordination. Karlee struggled with a new fear of heights and had difficulty balancing which negatively impacted her love of riding horses.
Linda shares their story providing so much credit to the great folks at STAR who kept encouraging Karlee to “get back on the horse’. Yet, despite Karlee’s strong desire she simply couldn’t get past her fear of heights. She always stopped just short of getting on the horse and resuming her therapy.
Everyone at STAR patiently allowed Karlee to accomplish baby steps moving at her own pace. And, that patience and persistence finally came to fruition in September 2015 when Karlee was finally able to conquer her fears and blow away that last dark cloud left behind from her stroke. Karlee got on the horse! And there were happy tears and smiles and whoops of joy!
It is not to be overlooked how much STAR has helped her above and beyond. The instructors, the other families and, of course, the horses have been with Karlee every step of the way. And, today Karlee is back in the saddle again – resuming her therapy and full of confidence and a can-do attitude!
Equine therapy is critical for so many kids. It’s why having a grant from Tony Stewart’s foundation is so valued. Funds are used toward the Lesson Patron Program so that lessons and therapy sessions can be offered at an affordable rate for our families. In 2015, STAR was able to move 23 individuals from the waiting list to start active therapeutic riding. Kids who, like Karlee, will achieve their own victories and develop their own confidence and joy.