Written by Student Assistant Christian Bond
TACOMA, Wash. – A mother was brought to tears upon seeing the results of work done by Pacific Lutheran University women's basketball student-athlete Kristin Sturdivan at Russell's Ranch in Buckley, Washington.
Sturdivan, a junior to be that started all 25 games for the Lutes in 2016-2017, is working at becoming a therapeutic riding coach. Children who are nonverbal, or struggle with anxiety, attempt to find peace on the backs of horses. With encouragement from Sturdivan, a reluctant rider found her peace.
"She is nonverbal and does not sign regularly," Sturdivan said. "However, the second time she came out, she rode with me and loved it. Once she was on, you could see her whole body relax. Her mother started crying when her daughter started making eye contact with her as we walked around the arena. Her mom had said she doesn't make eye contact, and that she had never seen her do that before."
Sturdivan is on her way to becoming PATH certified. She's on step two of a four step process. She's already passed three hand written tests covering the rules of PATH. The test included horse knowledge, disability knowledge, and procedural understanding. Step two is completing 25 supervised hours of lessons. Step three and four include a three-day workshop, teaching lessons in front of judges, another written test, and a riding test.
Sturdivan's typical day at the ranch are long. They begin at 5 a.m. when she picks up her horses, Jessie and Colt. The horses take about an hour to eat before they are brushed and saddled for the first rider. Once the horses are ready, the riding area is set up with cones and poles for upcoming lessons. Lessons start at 10:30 a.m. and can go as long as 5:30 p.m.
"This is definitely a perfect fit," Sturdivan said. "It has always been a passion of mine to be around horses. I love the energy they give off, and comfort they offer. The hearts of the children in my program make the early mornings and late nights so worth it. If I could pick the perfect job, I would do this all day long. It's incredible to see children connect with the horses."
By the end of the summer, Sturdivan will be more than qualified to serve others in life changing ways through therapeutic horse riding.