It’s no secret that horses have a special way of healing humans, both mentally and physically. Born extremely premature, Genevieve Rohner has faced many obstacles, including Sensory Processing Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, and Amblyopia, in her 13 years of life. After being introduced to a therapeutic horsemanship program, Genevieve was bitten by the “horse bug” and has since dedicated herself to making the Paralympic equestrian team one day. Read on to hear her incredible story from her mom, Lexie Rohner.
Photo credit (above): Deborah Hickey
When Genevieve was born a triplet, she had breathing difficulties which were very scary. But not as frightening as her brothers, who both had lung hemorrhaging; one of them also had a major stroke. Being born at 28 weeks is incredibly premature and comes with a laundry list of medical difficulties. The first year was terrifying, with all three in two different NICUs for three months.
At three, Genevieve’s brother Cole, was enrolled in a Hippotherapy clinical trial through Ride-On Therapeutic Horsemanship (a USEF Para-Equestrian Center of Excellence). When it ended, Ride-On invited he and Genevieve to ride again, and a new life direction was born! Cole couldn’t wait to be done, but Genevieve, who had struggled with Sensory Processing Disorder (non-clinical Autism), fell madly in love. Since horses most closely mimic the human gait, riding also benefitted both her Cerebral Palsy and her misaligned leg bones. She was later diagnosed with Amblyopia.
Genevieve was introduced to horses through a clinical trial with Ride-On Therapeutic Horsemanship, which kick-started her obsession with horses!
Riding proved to be magical, not only for Genevieve but for the whole family. As a four-year-old, she became utterly focused on everything horse-related, from her clothes to her toys and most of all, in her imagination. The family dynamic shifted from the incessant stress of daily screaming fits and physical difficulties to scheduling barn visits. The only real stomp came at five years old when she emphatically declared she was going to the Olympics.
In the past decade, she has learned a great deal in pursuing her goals and will make her international CPEDI debut in 2021. Classified as a Grade IV para-equestrian, she has been the youngest in the U.S. since 2017 and will become the youngest globally next year. Committed to her goal of making the 2024 Paralympic team, Genevieve and her Hanoverian gelding, Donut, are guided on their journey with expert coaching from Annie Sweet.
Genevieve practicing with her trusty steed, Donut. She hopes to make the 2024 Paralympic Equestrian Team. Photo credit: Deborah Hickey.
Named to the USEF Para Emerging Athletes list with two horses in 2020, Genevieve also competed at her first national event, the 2020 Para Dressage National Championships in Tryon, North Carolina on a catch ride (Penny Neault’s Georgian Grande mare, Viessa) that she spent only three hours on prior to showing. Earning a 69% from International judges and placing second among all Emerging Athletes was a huge highlight, along with competing beside the U.S.’s elite para equestrians.
Para-Equestrian Dressage is still young but has come far since its first inclusion at the 1996 Olympics. Within this community of remarkable people and new friends, Genevieve has been fortunate to find a friend and mentor in Kate Shoemaker, fellow Grade IV para-equestrian, 2021 Paralympian and 2018 WEG Silver medalist. Highly accomplished as well as an equine veterinarian, Shoemaker has offered expertise and kindness in a way often not seen in competitive sports.
Guidance from mentors, like Kate Shoemaker shown here, has helped Genevieve pursue her riding dreams.
Genevieve’s journey has been a decade thus far, and with so much in front of her, the possibilities are exciting!
Thank you for the support, Riding Warehouse!
Follow Genevieve’s journey on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gr_paraequestrian/
Read more about her here: https://www.grparaequestrian.org/
Learn about Para-Equestrian Dressage: https://www.usef.org/compete/disciplines/para-equestrian