“Ashlynn, I would describe as determined, very gutsy. She’s a fun, very long girl. Very caring,” said mum, Tamara.
When Ashlynn was 11 years old, she underwent an intense surgery to remove a mandarin-sized tumour from deep inside her brain. “The side effects to Ashlynn’s brain surgery are very similar to someone having a stroke on the left side. So, from the tip of her toe through to the top of her head and hand has all been affected. There is a lot of weakness there which is exacerbated by the fact that she has the Ehlers-Danlos or the muscle weaknesses and the joints that dislocate,” Tamara explains.
“The brain fatigue is horrendous. We tried two different schools when she first came out of hospital. The schoolwork and the noise was too much because she’s also lost her hearing with the other tumours that have developed which have made it tiring for her. Our biggest hurdle is the heat. She has no thermal control so if she overheats, we can’t stop her vomiting.”
“Ashlynn didn’t feel like living. It was a really big thing because she just didn’t want to live. She’d gone from what she thought was being a normal person or a normal child like everyone else to being what she is today. It was very hard to suddenly adapt to that.”
Tamara got in contact with TAD and met TAD Volunteer, Peter Davies to see if they could get a saddle modified for Ashlynn so that she could go out to the paddock and grow the confidence to ride on her own. Peter Davies worked alongside Ashlyn to see how she would ride her horse. He would look at her weaknesses in her left-hand side and how she leaned on one side. “Peter took lots of photos and made prototypes of the saddle modifications to see what worked best.”
“The saddle modification is quite an innovative design. It has a removable back rest that stabilises Ashlynn in the saddle and enables us to strap her in. I’ve never seen anything like it before.” Tamara continues to say, “The saddle modification was what Peter helped with but he also gave her so much confidence in the fact that she was going to be able to do what she wants!”
“Having TAD step in and be able to modify a saddle and being able to do exercises on horseback that weren’t really exercises to her and to see her strengthen up has changed not only Ashlynn’s life and for the future but all our lives as family. Ashlynn felt there was a purpose now. Without what TAD and Peter have done, I don’t know where I’d be with Ashlynn.”
“When i’m riding River, I feel free and all my worries go away. She seems to really help, even on the ground. I want to say thank you for getting my saddle and building it. It’s helped me alot,” says Ashlynn.