Join Us!
Mia riding her horse alongside the stable staff

Mia riding her horse alongside the stable staff

When Magnolia was 3 years old, we were told that hippotherapy could help stave off the effects of scoliosis, a common side effect of Rett syndrome. It took some searching but the closest hippotherapy, which is a type of occupational therapy or physical therapy while on a horse, was just a half-hour drive from our house at the time. This was a whole new world for us. Our weekly visits to the horse therapy center became the highlight of our week. Watching her ride a horse, learn to communicate with it, and giggle brought so much joy to us during those darker times of early diagnosis.

Since then, Magnolia has become somewhat of an equestrian in our family. Her love for horses is palpable. She also loves when her family and friends see her ride. She just loves sharing her love for horses with others, so when I told her we would be horseback riding with her friend Mia, she was very excited.Mia West is the daughter of Josh and Lily West and she also has Rett syndrome. Over the years, I have watched Mia grow up from the other side of the country. When we first moved to the east coast, we invited the West family over to our house. It felt like we had been friends for years. Going through something like Rett syndrome brings incredible camaraderie and we were immediately comfortable with each other. There is an understanding when a family is so similar to your own.

The Tesler and West families cheering on the girls as they ride

When we were discussing doing a horseback riding episode for this series, in my mind, I thought we would all be on horses, trotting through the countryside, a perfect picture of horsemanship. We had adapted other activities to provide typical experiences for our kids and this should be no different, I thought. Then we realized that the adaptation for safe horseback riding requires professionals on either side guiding them and a third leading the horse. I recognized then that this is one that we should make it easy on all of us.

That was especially true because right now, Mia is going through a very similar phase of seizures that Magnolia went through at that age. It is probably one of the more difficult stages of Rett that we have experienced.

When the West family arrived at Ridgebury Farm & Stables to have Mia ride with Magnolia, Lily mentioned Mia’s seizures and how she hadn’t ridden horses for a while. Immediately, I realized the gravity of the situation. We have been there. It is not an easy decision to pause a therapy or activity because of a medical reason. We too had to stop Magnolia riding when she was Mia’s age. Magnolia took 6 months off because it was medically unsafe for her to ride.

We have a saying in our family. We say - 'don't say you can't do it, just say you can't do it yet.'

Lily West, Mia's Mom

We were so excited to be able to give Mia this experience, just for fun, but on this day, there was so much more to this horse ride. We were literally watching Mia get back up on the horse. It truly was a gift to be with Josh and Lily while they watched Mia ride the horse for the first time since her seizures had sidelined her. The joy that it brought Mia, Josh, Lily, and Mia’s little brother, Marcus, was infectious. Managing Rett syndrome means always adapting—it's a constant battle. The biggest commonality amongst families is resilience. Watching Mia was inspiring. Maggie rode proudly on her horse while Mia pushed hard to ride. We were watching a girl who has pushed through the hardest of times, inspire one who was living it.

We love figuring out the way to adapt something that she wouldn’t otherwise be able to do, but on this day, I was so happy that this was an activity we didn’t have to adapt. We were at a horse farm that specializes in hippotherapy and equine therapy. We were able to just sit back and watch our girls ride, in a safe space. To be able to give Mia a safe space to ride, well, that was actually a gift to everyone there.

Episode 5: ATV Safari With Catherine and Amber

Magnolia and the Shukovsky family practice nonverbal communication through play with their fin-tastic friends.