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Equine-Assisted Therapy Helps Fourth Grader with Rare Disease Improve Spacial Awareness, Strength, and Self-Confidence

Updated on February 25, 2022
Neve riding a horse named Ruby at Horse SenseAbility in Sherborn, MA, and supported by The Genesis Foundation for Children
Neve riding a horse named Ruby at Horse SenseAbility in Sherborn, MA, and supported by The Genesis Foundation for Children

Neve is not your average ten-year-old fourth grader. Although you wouldn’t know it from looking at her, Neve has a rare genetic disorder called Trisomy X. One in 1,000 females have Trisomy X, also known as Triple X. Females usually have two X chromosomes, not three.

Those with Trisomy X have symptoms such as anxiety, ADHD, language-based learning disabilities, hypotonia (low muscle tone), developmental dyspraxia (impairment in the ability to plan and carry out sensory and motor tasks so that the individual appears to be “out of sync” with their environment), and tall stature. Trisomy X occurs randomly and is not inherited.

Neve Cannot Imagine Having to Beat Someone In Sport

Neve’s mother, Michaela, describes her as an incredibly empathetic young girl, so much so that Neve doesn’t want to play any sports because she cannot imagine having to beat someone else. However, given her low muscle tone and lack of awareness of her body in space, Neve needed to participate in sport to develop her strength and physical awareness. Since Neve loves animals, Michaela thought equine therapy might be the answer.

Neve Was Terrified of Getting on a Horse

Last year, Neve started equine-assisted therapy at Horse SenseAbility located in Sherborn, Massachusetts. The first time Neve went to Horse SenseAbility, she cried; she was terrified of getting on the horse, and her mom didn’t know if Neve would do it. By the end of her first session, Neve did get on the horse but would only do so if the horse didn’t move. Neve’s fear was so great that Polly Kornblith, the Executive Director of Horse SenseAbility, later told Michaela that she was surprised that Neve returned the following week. Neve not only returned the next week, but she got back onto the horse and allowed the horse to be led around the ring.

Neve has been going to Horse SenseAbility for a year now and loves it! Riding has helped Neve develop strength in her legs and core. She has become more aware of where her body is in space. She has also learned that horses are sensitive to emotions, just like she is.

Self-Confidence Gained While Riding Transfers to Other Aspects of Life

The best part is that riding has helped Neve become more self-confident, which has transferred to other aspects of her life. For example, Neve used to be very afraid of dogs, had a phobia of getting shots, and was too scared to climb up a ladder. She’s no longer frightened of dogs, recently received her first shot in four years, and is no longer afraid of ladders because she is better aware of her body in space.

From riding, Neve has learned that she has to follow a process before being able to get on the horse. She needs to put on her riding gear, among other things, and then enjoys the fruits of her efforts. She has learned to enjoy completing tasks and reaching a goal. As a result, her overall executive function skills have improved, and the feedback from her school teachers supports this. Neve now has become more adventuresome and wants to take up karate!

The Genesis Foundation for Children Provides Grants for Therapies for Children with Rare Diseases and Genetic Disorders

The Genesis Foundation for Children provides a grant to Horse SenseAbility to fund Neve’s equine-assisted therapy. Since 1982, The Genesis Foundation for Children’s mission to provide wraparound care for children born with rare diseases and genetic disorders has not wavered. In addition to funding The Feingold Center located at Boston Children’s Hospital, we also fund additional programs and services that support the entire family.