Forgetting the neigh-sayers
Dirt covers the floor, the sun is shining brightly outside and a constant giggle is shining through the arena inside. With her hair tied back, helmet on and boots pulled up, Lindyn Devenport takes the reins.
Just like any other horse-loving 6 year old child, Lindyn is anxious to hop on her horse and trot around; however, Lindyn's time with the horses means a lot more than just riding. It means practicing her skills in a different means than her average peers.
Lindyn is a special little girl, tackling every day while living with a global developmental delay that creates challenges with her cognitive, and some physical, abilities. Termed the SNC4A mutation of the 17th chromosome, Lindyn understands a lot more than she can express, according to her mother Meredith Devenport.
Due to her challenges, Lindyn participates in multiple therapies, of which horse therapy is one.
While at school, she is intertwined between the regular classroom, the special needs classroom and is pulled out for speech, occupational and physical therapies, according to Meredith.
"We try to do gross motor [activities] with physical therapy every day," Luke Cowell, physical therapist assistant at Woodland school district, said. "It depends on her mood, her attitude -- some days she's more willing to participate, other days [Lindyn's] not as willing."
With Cowell, Lindyn practices hitting baseballs for hand-eye coordination, jumps on a small trampoline, rides a tricycle "on the road" to help her focus and follow a path and other coordination activities like jumping jack sand skipping. Cowell works with her for a given amount of time, adjusting her daily routine as needed. After her "play time" therapy, Lindyn switches gears for "work time" therapy with occupational therapist Teresa Cobb. Both Cowell and Cobb have been working with Lindyn since her start with Woodland schools at age three.
"She came in to us as an early childhood student and has continued forward and made lots of gains from day one until now," Tamara Miles, director of special services for Woodland school district, said.
But Lindyn hasn't only made strides in the classroom. She's trotted her way through progress at Mississippi Valley Therapeutic Horsemanship (MVTH). Since beginning with MVTH in August of 2017, Lindyn has grown exponentially in her listening, communication and control skills.
"Here, she was empowered to take control over her horse to do different things," Varina Luttrull, program director for MVTH, said.
Lindyn uses adaptive tack while at the therapy barn. Holding the reins seems like a simple skill, but there's more to it. The reins Lindyn uses has tennis balls attached to them. Each colored ball represents a direction. While being coached, Lindyn is told "yellow ball" or "orange ball" to help guide her in her lessons, as part of the therapy barn's efforts to help her understand her movements better, while reinforcing color recognition exercises.
Kristen Seyer, Lindyn's cousin who also volunteers to side-walk along Lindyn and her horse and help coach her at the barn, explained the benefits of the ball reins: they allow Lindyn to focus better, as well as to help understand her left and her right while keeping her engaged.
"With the balls she can just grab onto the balls and is able to steer and it is more likely to hang on to them than let go and get distracted like with the other reins," Kristen Seyer, side-walker and cousin of Lindyn, said. "They're really helpful with understanding left/right and also keeping her engaged."
Not only has Lindyn been able to continue honing her skills while on horseback with MVTH, she has also been provided with an outlet that has allowed her to embrace new challenges, new environments and new people. "There were reservations at first but now she openly and willingly goes in to newer situations better," Meredith said.
Waking up every day, taking on new challenges and meeting goals, Lindyn continues to exceed expectations. "She showed exactly how much she could do after she started growing up," Seyer said. "And she's blowing doctor's minds."
"My daughter is the happiest person probably you'll ever meet," Meredith said. "And for some reason, it's like she's a rockstar -- everybody she meets, she leaves an impact on. And I've never seen another kid like her."