Under 21: Taylor Lovette

Taylor Lovette may not talk much, but she gets excited if she is talking about horses, especially if she is talking about her favorite horse, Pistol. Taylor is 16 years old and lives with her father and mother, Carlos and Jennifer Lovette, along with her siblings and grandmother in Hopkins, South Carolina. She rides at Dream Riders in Lexington, South Carolina, a nonprofit premier PATH International accredited center devoted to the cognitive, emotional, and social well-being of people with special needs.

Taylor has autism and a physical disability that causes her feet and legs to contract. At 12 years old, she had to have surgery, and after intensive physical therapy she is able to walk again with braces, which she will wear for the rest of her life. Taylor’s mother says that she began riding as one of the physical therapy programs available through their health care. “We started out in gymnastics, then golf, then we tried horses seven years ago and that’s the one that has really stuck; she has seen the most improvement and also it helps her out mentally, so it’s like a two-for-one deal.”

In 2020 when Covid hit and she was unable to ride, Taylor’s legs stiffened up so much she couldn’t walk at all. “We didn’t realize the extent that horses were helping her stay loose and keeping her off her toes” said Jennifer. “The difference was so drastic when she stopped riding that she had to be carried around.”

Taylor says that she likes the way the horses look at her, and how smart they are. “I love how they remember who I am.” She says that sometimes they will come and sniff her or lick her.

She enjoys how much her favorite horse likes to go fast, and by all accounts, the two have a special partnership.

“It’s almost like they talk,” Taylor’s mother says. “They communicate well, and if he wants to be spunky, she enjoys that too.” Taylor absolutely loves cantering Pistol: Other horses have been bumpy or scary for her to canter, but Pistol fits her perfectly.

According Jennifer Stroudemire who is the Dream Riders head riding instructor and program director, “Pistol and Taylor found a connection instantaneously. Taylor is one of the few riders he will treat to his lovely canter. This has been a big confidence boost for Taylor.”

Stoudemire would love to see Taylor compete eventually, but she is already incredibly proud of her progress. “To see her go from needing a leader and a side-walker to riding independently is quite the accomplishment.”

Thanks to her experience with riding and discovering her love of horses, Taylor Lovette has visions of working with animals for a career, possibly even becoming a veterinary technician. She plans to volunteer with Dream Riders when she ages out of the program.

 

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