Friday, October 24, 2014

"31 for 21" Special Olympics Horse Show

A weekend away and my life goes to crazy!  I've dropped the ball on too many posts to really call this 31 for 21 but I'm going to try to fulfill my goal even if it takes until Christmas!

The Special Olympics were awesome!  Cate loved the horse show and she did so well.  I was amazed at the composure she showed in a new situation with so much going on and so many people watching.  She ended up competing in 3 events (Showmanship, Dressage, Trail) and did great in all of them.  The amazing part besides how well she did was that it was in spite of a lot of waiting and uncertainty.  The hard part about any big event like this is that you can never be sure what time your "performance" will be and normally with Cate that can cause some unrest (see how nicely I put that - I'm sure many of you can imagine what that really looks like).  Of course having horses everywhere you turn helps that situation a lot then add about 6 teen age/college age girls to give you lot of attention - now waiting is just plain fun! 

Cate's first event was dressage.  That was by far her hardest event given the complexity of the pattern and the seriousness of the sport in general.  But she put on her game face, sat up perfectly straight and performed like she'd been doing it forever.  I was so proud of her.


She won a silver medal in her intermediate one group! Not to bad for a first try, huh!!!

Sorry I don't have better medal pictures but they all have other kids in them so I won't post them here.  On Friday, Cate also did showmanship, which is where she leads the horse in a pattern.  She remember everything herself with no help from her buddy and did a great job getting Major to cooperate.

Our barn was awesome - they had us set up with snacks, drinks and tents so the waiting wasn't so bad!  Both girls loved the opening ceremonies but I'm afraid they are going to want to trick ride like some of the girls in the show now!

On Saturday Cate didn't have any events so after a lazy morning we got to experience a little more of the Special Olympics setting - everyone had lunch together and the girls spent some time in the craft area making some treasure to take home.  The highlight of the day though was the dance.  Lucy wasn't so sure about the crowd and the noise but Cate was in her element.  She dance with the buddies, she danced with her daddy and she even danced with a judge!  She had a blast.

Sunday was a rainy day but spirits were high in our camp because Grandma & Grandpa made it to see Cate in her final event - the Trial ride.  In this one she had to trot her horse around a barrel (with a helping on the lead rope) then by herself maneuver him over some poles, across a bridge and into a square to stop.  This was the one she practiced the least amount but she still remembered everything and did great.

So our first experience with Special Olympics was really good and we are already looking forward to next year when we aren't such novices at the whole adventure!!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

"31 for 21" Cate's Horse Adventure (Part 2) - The Special Olympics!!!

The second major change that I mentioned in the "Cate's riding buddy" post was that our lessons became practice for the Special Olympics.  Actually as this post publishes we are at the Special Olympics State Horse Show!  For the last couple months Cate has been getting ready for this event and the whole family is so excited for our first adventure into the world of the Special Olympics.  She will be competing in four events (please excuse any error in my descriptions, I am totally new to this horse competition stuff!) -

Dressage - an English riding event where the rider and horse execute a pattern from memory.  Cate's dressage pattern is a beginners "walk-trot test" which includes weaving between cones, stopping and starting her horse including a "salute", and a short trot.  She will be in complete control of her horse but there will be a buddy walking next to her for this event that can give her help if needed.  This will be the hardest one because it has a lot of moves and is by far the longest route.

Showmanship - I think this event is a modification of an event that would normally be a judging of the horse.  Cate's showmanship will require her to hold onto the horse and walk next to it with her buddy in a U shape around 3 cones, hold the horse still while the judge walks around it, then make the horse walk backwards four steps. I believe her buddy walks with her but not sure if they are holding a lead rope.

English Equitation - I'm the least sure of this event but as I understand it Equitation is actually an overriding category that would include Dressage.  It is an event where the control and style of the rider are judged.  Cate's English Equitation test includes her riding the horse at a walk in straight line and circling barrels, trotting in an L patter and halting.

Trail - The description is "partial assisted walk, assisted jog or sitting trot".  Cate will trot for three sides of a square and then around a barrel with her buddy holding a lead rope.  Then she will halt at a cone and walk over some poles, over a bridge and stop in a marked area.  Her buddy is holding a lead rope for the trotting part but unclips and walks next to her for walking portion.

We had our dress rehearsal on Saturday and Cate did really well.  I think she is ready.  I hope that once she is in front of a crowd, she'll really show her competitive side and wow her coach and buddy.  We shall see!
She looked ASOLUTELY adorable in her English riding outfit.  Here are the pictures from practice - Cross your finger we are having good rides at Special Olympics!!!!

Major - Cate's horse for Special Olympics

That's my girl!
Cate - age 8, Oct 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

"31 for 21" - Cate's Riding Buddy

So Cate has officially been taking Therapeutic Riding lessons with the same instructor for a year.  She has continued to love 90% of the time.  She still loves grooming the horses and taking care of them.  She will even happily clean out a stall if we'll let her. The format of the lessons made two major changes over winter and spring - both are very cool changes! 

The first and most surprising is Lucy.  Remember when I said at the party where Cate first rode a horse that Lucy wouldn't even pet the horses?  Well up until December 2013 it was painful to even get Lucy in the barn.  At Cate's Horse Riding birthday party, Lucy finally pet a horse but was not going to sit on one, even for a pictures.  After that she was more comfortable in the barn and as the lessons went past she started to question the process more and more.  Then suddenly this past March, she decided that maybe she would take a riding lesson if she could ride a tiny horse.  Luckily for us there is one miniature horse at our barn that can be ridden and the center was willing to add a sibling riding lesson onto Cate's therapeutic lesson.  So in March, Lucy started joining Cate in lesson riding a mini called "Prince Charles".  From the first time she was brave enough to get on she loved it just as much as Cate.

In July she graduated to a regular horse and the girls have been talking lessons together ever since.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"31 for 21" - A look back at Cate's 8th Birthday Party

No surprise after the lessons started Cate's horse love grew and she insisted on a horse riding birthday party.  So in Dec 2013, Cate's 8th birthday party was held at our barn.  It was perfect because Cate was really comfortable there and she was able to show off a little in front of her school friends and play group friends - which isn't a normal occurrence for her.  We had a great turnout and even though it was a little cold all the girls had a great time. It was fun to look back at these pictures and see how much Cate has grown up just in the last 10 months!
Birthday Queen on her horse

Proud Little Sis

Girls having fun!

First Time Lucy pet a horse

the Cupcakes

Cowboy cookies from Grandma

Even the horse got treats

a beautiful day and a beautiful place for a party
My big 8 year old.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"31 for 21" - Hippotherapy vs Theraeutic Riding

As I mentioned yesterday, once I saw how comfortable Cate was on a horse and how good it was for her physically I started looking into Hippotherapy vs riding lessons.  Cate has some friends do Hippotherapy which is according to Wikipedia is "a form of physical, occupational and speech therapy in which a therapist uses the characteristic movements of a horse to provide carefully graded motor and sensory input. A foundation is established to improve neurological function and sensory processing, which can be generalized to a wide range of daily activities."  When I got down to the purposes and strategies used in Hippotherapy I could see how beneficial it could be for a child with Ds.  It actually has a lot of the same characteristics as Aqua-therapy had for Cate before she started walking.  Hippotherapy has benefits not just in major muscle strength but in speech and OT areas as well.  There were two major reasons I decided not to go this direction with Cate.  One she is strong and coordinated enough that she does not qualify for a physical therapy prescription and our insurance won't pay for Hippotherapy anyway.  The other reason is that Hippotherapy does not give control to the rider, the therapist is normally in control.  This seemed like it would be exceptionally difficult for Cate to take now that she had a taste of "real" riding.  I was foreseeing lessons that were way more of a fight then a benefit.

At the same time as I really got into the research we found out that we need to find a new occupational therapist as Cate's was retiring.  One of the centers that was recommended to me as a replacement was a therapy center that did not only did OT but had a program called "therapeutic riding lessons".    I was pretty much sold as soon as I saw the description:

Therapeutic Riding is an exciting recreational therapy that combines the positive movement of the horse with a rider’s ability to take control. It is a highly sought after sport for riders with a disability that prevents them from having a natural walking gait, for on the horse you can’t tell which rider is the disabled one, we are all equal. However, Therapeutic Riding is also beneficial to many disabilities; cognitive, physical, sensory, or just self esteem!
It encourages riders towards independence. Most riders will learn to tack up their own horse as well as walk, trot and canter without the use of a leader or side walker. Each lesson plan is tailored to the individual rider and their set goals and objectives. A few students have recently attended able-bodied horse shows and performed extremely well against other riders.
Patients receiving Hippotherapy do not typically control the movement of the horse. As the American Hippotherapy Association describes, Hippotherapy takes place in a controlled environment where graded sensory input can elicit appropriate responses from the rider. Specific riding skills are not taught as in Therapeutic Riding; rather a foundation is established to improve neurological function and sensory processing.

All this seemed right up Cate's alley so in September of 2013 we started therapeutic riding lessons every other week.  Here is my original post about Cate's first lesson with lots of pictures -

Sept 2013  - first lesson

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"31 for 21" - Cate Horse Adventure (Part 1)

My daughter is a little horse crazy - isn't that awesome?  Such a typical little girl obsession!  I wasn't a horse girl as a kid so this new adventure of Cate's is completely foreign to me.  The way it all started (beyond her being fascinated by shows on the ipad that were horse related) was a birthday party.  The funny thing is that birthday party was a friend of Lucy's that the mom was just so sweet to invite Cate along.  When I went back to look for a couple of pictures of Cate's first horse experience I was really surprised to find it was in August 2013.  I really thought we'd been on this kick longer than a year.
The party was in a horse barn and from the moment we arrived Cate was captivated.
Meeting the horses - Aug 2013
She had no fear petting this huge horse.  I think she would have been perfectly happy to work in the barn and pet horses the whole party but of course then came the riding.  She had no hesitation getting on the horse and within a few steps looked like she had been doing it for ages!
Of course when her turn was over this was the look she gave the helper -
She took every turn they gave her and since Lucy wouldn't even pet the horses at this point, Cate got a couple extra rides.

She had such a great time and I could see how good it was for her physically to be on the horse.  It really takes a lot of core strength to hold yourself upright while the horse is bouncing around.  For the most part she was also very focused and stimulated.  I had heard of Hippotherapy (a physical therapy done on horseback where the therapist use the horse as a tool to promote major muscle work as well as speech and OT goals) and knew some people who's kids with Ds did it but Cate's hypotonia isn't bad enough in her major motor groups to quality for PT.  After talking to the helpers at this party I decided to look into some riding lessons for Cate.  A strength building exercise that she loves seemed like a no brainer.  So my next step was to start looking into our options - something I can chat more about tomorrow!

Cate Age 7 - Aug 2013

Monday, October 6, 2014

Just a little

Life snuck up on me again this weekend and didn't let me get in a post.  I was going to talk about Cate's new adventure and her upcoming first.  Since I don't have time to post all of that today how about just a pic to help you figure out what it could be?
How cute and grown up she looks!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A third grader!!

I think the best way to start off this return to blogging is to talk about the start of this school year.  I'll probably take a trip down memory lane in future posts but for this one lets talk about our new school year.   The decision was made at the end of last year to promote Cate to third grade.  Since I'm all about being honest on this blog I will tell you Cate is not by any means ready for most of the general education third grade work.  I think she ended last year reading at a 2.1 level (2cd grade, 1st month) or a level G if you do the alphabet method (an average end of year second grader would be heading to an M if I remember correctly).  Cate made significant improvements in math during her second grade year but at the end she was still only adding single digit number and just starting subtraction which is well below the general education classrooms.  But with the IEP process and the fact that she made significant progress during the year, promotion with an IEP was an option we were given.  We weighed the pros and cons of promotion and decided that moving forward was the best course of action.  That decision allows her to stay with a group of classmates that she has been with since kindergarten, does not affect her confidence (she completely believed that it would be "bad" to have stayed in second grade), and gives her new challenges and material to continue to grow. 

Our school has moved to an integrated teaching model so Cate is in a co-taught classroom.  For those of you not familiar, this means that her classroom has both a general education teacher and a special education teacher working together to teach a combined class of typical, IEP, and special needs students.  We were in the same model for second grade but since was new to the school it got off to a kind of rocky start.   Cate has an amazing team for third grade that is made up of an experience general education teacher and a second year out of college special needs student.  In my opinion the combination of the two gives the classroom the necessary order and rules with an enthusiasm that can only come from youth.  These two teacher so far have shown seamless communication, great preparedness, and the desire to help Cate succeed.  We are hoping for a good year in third grade but it won't be easy on any of us I know.  But we'll be up for the challenge, won't we?

First Day of School Pics!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hello - anyone still out there? (Why I haven't written in a while)

HELLO!  Did you miss me?  I know you are probably super surprised to see a post from A Brighter Sunshine show up on your reading list or in your inbox.  I just kind of fell off the circuit didn't I?

Well I'm probably not back for good but I am going to try my best to get some posts out in honor of Down syndrome awareness month and '31 for 21' which starts today.  First if you are still reading this blog then I guess I owe you an explanation for my absence.  Really that is a twofold thing - one is the simplest answer, I'm completely busy and frequently overwhelmed by daily life so writing was the easy place to cut back.  The other reason is I just needed to step away from Ds.  Not sure that makes sense to most people but when I am writing blog posts, I feel the need to read blog posts and articles about Ds.  Not sure why except if someone is reading my blog it is only polite to read theirs, right?  And I love reading blogs about the daily lives of kids like Cate - it is inspiring and motivating, which makes it easy to fall down the rabbit hole.  I kind of obsess when I get too far into that habit - I spend hours reading blogs which leads to links to interesting articles about Ds around the country and the world, which leads to reading comments, which leads to outrage at how awful people can be, which leads to a need to advocate more.  All of that can be a really good thing until it starts messing with my perspective.  My reality is that our daily lives are not ruled by Ds but by two pint sized, strong personalities which take all my focus and the majority of my time. The last year has held some new challenges, new milestones, and a lot of fun.  For the month of October, I am going to do some reflecting of the time that has past since my last post in November 2013 and try to share some of that with you because I do love the Ds community  and I am an advocate at heart so it makes me happy to think that maybe I helped one person out there deal with an issue or at the very least made them realize they are not alone in this crazy life!

Now all that talk is well and good but truly you probably just want to see a picture of Cate, right?  When I look at my last couple posts I can't believe how much she has grown and matured.  I swear she is two inches taller and not a pound heavier.  She is getting adjusted to the third grade, swimming, horseback riding, cheerleading and starting to become very independent (in reality instead of just in her head!). 

Just a taste - at the very least I promise more pictures this week!
Thanks for sticking around!