Horsing Around- A DHS Senior’s Barnyard Legacy

The story of Kaeden Babcock’s journey from client to employee at Leg Up Farms.

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Justin Kopp

At age 8, senior Kaeden Babcock first visited Leg Up Farm as a client, looking for a therapeutic way to deal with Asperger’s Syndrome. Today, she still frequents the farm, but now as an employee.

Justin Kopp, Reporter

Dallastown senior Kaeden Babcock, 18, keeps herself busy by participating on the Mini-THON committee, taking photos for the yearbook, taking part in the Big Buddy program, and throwing on the track team.

Still, her schedule doesn’t end with the school day. 

Most days, Babcock can be found working with the horses at Leg Up Farms in Franklin County.

Leg Up’s primary role is as a provider of pediatric therapy.  They offer such services as behavioral therapy, physical therapy, equine therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and nutrition counseling.

Babcock’s time at Leg Up spans over ten years, since she started there at just 8 years old.

At first, Babcock was one of Leg Up’s clients and engaged in equine therapy to help her cope with her Asperger’s.  Being with both the horse and her trainer made it easier for her to develop social skills.

“[Equine therapy] calmed me down and kept me focused.  It helped me learn which behavior was positive and which was negative.  My trainer also played a big part in discouraging my negative behaviors,” Babcock said.

However, trouble came her way at age 13 when a chronic series of pseudoseizures, which are characterized by a difference in brain activity from typical seizures, made it virtually impossible for her to stay conscious.

It is difficult for Babcock to remember her experiences at the hospital because of the strain the pseudoseizures put on her memory.  

Eventually, though, one of the several medications her doctors tried giving her made an impact, and she could begin undergoing therapy that would let her return to normalcy.

Of course, her therapy regiment was no less rigorous than her treatment, and it eventually led her back to Leg Up.  She had occupation, physical, and speech therapy added onto her usual equine therapy sessions to help her regain the functions like walking and motor control she lost as a result of her condition.

She regained motor functionality after around two years of therapy and  decided to continue riding at Leg Up.

At age 10, Kaeden competed with her horse, Nutmeg, in her first show at Colombia Riding Club, in Colombia, PA. She won first in showmanship, second in walk trot, third in walk, and fifth in walk troy equitation. (Photo Submitted )

“Riding was challenging and a chore at first, but the presence of friends and a deep-love for the sport, though I had trouble admitting it at first, convinced me to continue. It wasn’t just the riding that made me stay either.  It was the barnwork, grooming, and just being outside with the horses that really made me feel at home,” Babcock said.

In addition to continuing with the sport, Babcock also began volunteering her time to help other clients at Leg Up during their lessons or equine therapy sessions.

Last July, she got a job at Leg Up as well.  The time she spends working is focused on the upkeep of the barn and the care of its 15 horses.

“Obviously, riding is one of my favorite things to do.  But I just love mixing grain and being in the grain room,” Babcock said.  “It smells great in there to me and I like measuring out each horse’s feed since they all require a different combination of grain and supplements.”

When she competes in shows, Babcock prefers flat classes-a combination of walking, trotting, and cantering-to jumping events.

“I often work with horses who are doing jumping events for the first time, so it becomes hard to get them ready for a show.  Some of the horses I work with haven’t even been in a show, so I think flat classes are a good way to ease them into it,” Babcock said.

After graduation, Babcock plans to attend and ride at Sweet Briar College in Virginia.  She intends to major in biology and dreams of becoming a veterinarian, but has also expressed interest in barn management.