Madisonville, KY – Find out more about Kentucky Equine Abilities here.
Back in July, we brought you a story about a horse therapy center in Hopkins County for children and adults with special needs. There we met a little boy just getting the gist of how to ride a horse. Now, a few months later we've gotten word that he won a bronze medal at the 2009 Special Olympics State Equestrian Competition in Lexington. Angela Hatton brings us this story.
Isaac Ramsey at the time of our first story was seven years-old. Here he is at his third horse riding lesson at Kentucky Equine Abilities Center near Madisonville.
" Alright, now say, "Walk on, Daisy."'
" Walk on, Daisy.'
During this session Isaac's instructors were helping him learn to command the horse. After a few more months of weekly lessons, he can do much more. KEAC Executive Director Carrie McColl describes how, now 8 years-old Isaac had to guide his horse to win the medal in his category.
"He had to tell him to walk, he had to tell him to trot, he had to tell him to reverse, and you go both directions walk and trot. He had to tell his horse to halt or "ho." And he had to guide the horse around the outside of the rail."
Isaac, who has Down Syndrome, is the first person from Hopkins County to compete at the State Equestrian level in 20 years. According to his grandmother Linda Ramsey and stepmother Emily Parker, he had a big cheerleading section. Ramsey and Parker speak together about Isaac's win. Linda Ramsey.
"It wasn't just his family. He had friends there. He had teachers that came. It was just a real big deal for him because there was so many people that was so excited about what he was doing."
Parker helped get Isaac into the spirit of the event by picking out a Western outfit complete with cowboy boots to match his Western saddle style. But the look got its best accessory when Isaac won his bronze medal. Ramsey and Parker speak with pride about that moment. Ramsey begins.
" That was exciting.'
" Well there wasn't a dry eye in the house, I don't think.'
" Everyone was crying.'"
KEAC Executive Director Carrie McColl is proud too. It was the training at the center that prepared Isaac to perform as well as he did.
"We don't place limitations on any of the kids, so I mean, kind of the sky's the limit and they'll show you just how far they can take it."
His family says Isaac has been showing off his medal. He wore it to church and was recognized during an assembly at his school. Ramsey says she's happy her grandson has a reason to be proud.
"It was really good for him because it was good for him to gain that self-confidence. Y'know, he could be like other kids."
He's also eager to continue his training. Carrie McColl hopes Isaac will soon be steering the horse without a person walking alongside to assist him. He's already taken what could be an important step.
"He and the horse have a bond now. He pretty much rides the same horse every time unless the horse is sick or lame. And he rides Zantom. And Zantom is an ex-show-horse and he does a few tricks. He'll pounce, he'll smile, he'll hug he has quite a few things he'll do and Isaac thinks that's the coolest thing in the world."
Equine therapy has been linked to increased motor and verbal skills in children with disabilities. Linda Ramsey says she's really seen Isaac blossom through the lessons.
"I can even see that his vocabulary is getting much better. Not that his vocabulary is bad; he's got a good vocabulary, but I can tell that he's saying more things now because he talks about the horse a lot."
And the lessons aren't just about riding. McColl also teaches her students to take care of the animal. She wants all her students to have a sense of responsibility for their horse.
Isaac was the only student ready to go to the state competition this year, but McColl hopes to take three next year. The trip comes with a hefty price tag. This year, fundraisers and donations raised 2,000 dollars to send Isaac to Lexington. McColl says they've already begun accruing the 6,000 dollars it will take to allow three students the chance to win.