- I had an opportunity to communicate with Genevieve Rohner . She is a paraequestrian with big goals. She is also a sensible,14 year old girl, who has a realistic approach to her riding, her goals and her dreams. Riding , she says, is how she breathes! What a wonderful thing that is! I emailed her my questions and her answers came back. As I read them I was inspired and impressed by her reslience, determination and optimism. Here is my interview with Genevieve .
- What is your disability and for those who may not understand it can you tell us how it affects your life. How old are you and did your disability affect your life as you were growing up?
I have Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Amblyopia and misaligned leg bones. I am 14 and, I was born with these and diagnosed later. I am a triplet, and we were born 11 weeks premature. One of my brothers also has Cerebral Palsy and Autism because he had a major stroke after we were born. Cerebral Palsy is the diagnosis that qualifies me to be a para equestrian. It is muscle weakness, though not progressive.
- Where do you live and since you are still quite young do you live with your family?
I live in Utah, with my family.
- How did horses come into your life? Tell us how you have found horses have helped you with your disability.
When we were three, my brother was in a Hippotherapy( horse therapy) clinical trial. After it ended, we both started doing Hippotherapy and I loved it. About a year later I started showing and then I fell in love with competing. My coach at the time put me on every horse in the barn, which helped me catch ride later on. I immediately felt that when I was with horses, I could be calm, I could be more active, and I felt connected. When I was little, I had a lot of trouble processing things and getting the words out. So, I was physical instead. Horses balanced out my underdeveloped neurological system and fed it with what was missing. As I grew up, I was able to become more articulate and that helped a lot. Cerebral Palsy and Autism make my brain and body a little different. Riding is breathing. It is the most beautiful view and is my breath.
Tell us about your current horse. I think his name is Kaspar. Does he have any particular things about his personality that you find amusing? How long have you had him and how old is he? Is he a specific breed? Any stories you have about him and your time with him would be welcome.
Kaspar is an 11-year old Oldenburg. He arrived from Germany earlier this year. He is super chill and very affectionate. He’s like a baby because he likes to lick. But I think he is looking for treats in my pockets, lol. He has a Jollyball and he will hold it between his teeth and swing it up and down, and then just drop it. He can be very silly, but when we are riding, he does his job very well. We have been becoming a team very well together since he arrived. He loves to hug me and is very patient.
- What are you goals as a paraequestrian? Tell us how you plan to accomplish these goals?
When I was five, I was watching figure skating. My mom was a skater and coach and my brothers and I all skated. I told my mom I was going to the Olympics, and she told me I would have to miss some social activities to skate more. I stomped my foot and told her I meant horses. She looked surprised. We didn’t know about Para at that time. But when I was seven, Hope Hand, the former president of the USPEA,asked my coach to meet me. She told us all about Para and I knew right away that was what I wanted. Hope passed away this year, but I am always going to be so grateful to her for finding me and helping me in my journey. She has helped so many of the current riders. I got my national classification in 2017 and have been the youngest classified U.S. para since then. Last March when I competed at my first CPEDI3* international, I became the youngest in the world. My goal for a long time has been to make the 2024 Paralympic team. Even if that doesn’t happen, I have a lot of other goals in between now and then and after that. One day I will be a Paralympian and be part of Team USA!
- Will you be competing this coming winter?
Next Winter I will head back to Florida for my second international season.
How do you prepare for competitions? Does Kaspar like competing?
Preparing for shows requires a lot of practice, like anything else you want to become good at. I love to compete and train. My coaches and I set up goals for longer periods of time, and then we set up goals to make the bigger ones happen. Every day I work on something that leads to that. I like the feeling of achieving my goals. It’s very satisfying. Kaspar is a very good boy at shows, but he does prefer to be in a pasture. Because shows mostly have stalls, I can tell he isn’t thrilled. But he is very well behaved, thankfully. I can’t wait to bring him to Wellington and show him in the big arena!
- Thank you Genevieve for taking the time to answer all my questions. I wish you all the best in your riding and I believe you will accomplish your goals.I look forward to seeing you compete in Florida this winter.