Friday, March 20, 2015

World Down Syndrome Day - Some Reasons I celebrate Cate

Tomorrow March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day - 3/21 (get it?). 
For those not blessed with a family member with an extra chromosome it is a day of awareness and for those lucky enough to be, it is a day to celebrate our loves.  I wish I been more interested in blogs and facebook before Cate, maybe then I would have seen these types of posts and known what joy awaited me when Cate was born. Since I haven't posted in forever I thought I'd give you few words and a lot of pictures - since seeing Cate not listening to me is the reason my very few readers come here!

I celebrate Cate and her extra chromosome because ...

She is beautiful inside and out

She can play alone for hours with only her imagination (much to her sister's dismay)

She is super competitive - especially in the pool
She loves to perform and isn't at all scared of a huge crowd and bright lights

Her love of animals is so pure

Her compassion is obvious - while riding on the Homecoming Float in the midst of so much attention her main thought was to comfort her nervous sister not to wave

She is stubborn as the day is long - this may be the reason for most my gray hairs but it also part of the force that propels her to challenge the views of her disability and push her to not just meet but exceed the expectations put in front of her.  She is a champion in every way both in my heart and in the world.

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