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February 4, 2019

Why Fit In When You Were Born To Stand Out? -- Dr. Seuss
Breaking Down the Walls that Hold Us Back

EQUUS Foundation President, Lynn Coakley, met Sophie Baghdassarian, at the 2018 Hampton Classic's Adoption Day with Adoptable Horses presented by the EQUUS Foundation.

Sophie had earned her place to compete in the championships of the Long Island Horse Show Series for Riders with Disabilities (LIHSSRD), hosted annually by the Hampton Classic Horse Show.

"My dream is to be able to adopt a horse in need of a loving home," Sophie shared with Coakley, along with her story.

Sophie's Story
For most of my early childhood, I followed in my sister's footsteps. When my sister joined little league softball, I joined; when my sister quit Police Athletic League soccer, I quit, when my sister started theatre, I started theatre.

I wanted to fit in and have friends and following my sister was what I thought was the way to do that. I also tried gymnastics, ice skating and ballet.

Over time, I realized these activities were not for me. When I began horseback riding, I knew it was time to hang up the uniforms alongside the ballet flats.

With horseback riding, I found my voice and my passion.
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I knew from the second I got in the saddle, slid my feet in the stirrups and picked up the reins, I would be able to break down the walls that were holding me back.

This was really important to me because some of those walls were very tall. At an early age, I was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder and ADHD. Socializing for me was a daily battle - a constant struggle to pick up others' social cues - to fit in.

Despite the fact that my parents and siblings were very supportive, I felt left out, ignored, and knew I was different - and hated it. It was as if I was in a different world.

With every sport I tried, I was happy when the day was over, but with horseback riding, I count the moments until I can ride - and I sleep in my breeches and polo the night before every lesson and show.

Whether I was grooming, tacking up, grazing, feeding, riding or just sitting by the stalls rambling on about nonsense, these magical creatures became my greatest friends and best listeners.

The barn is the second home for many, but for me, the barn became my place where I learned to pick up social cues - the cues of the horses I cared for - when they need to be worked, fed, groomed, or let out to the paddock - and now I'm better at sensing cues in people.
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The horses love me for me. They never judge me - instead they let me sit on their backs and help me feel connected to an animal that has a mind of its own. Horses are one of the greatest creatures to exist on this planet due to their healing power and tolerance.

It's easy to love them back!

It was horses who taught me to trust myself and my decision-making. Horses taught me to be brave and gave me the strength to keep my head up and see the good in everyone. I've grown more empathetic and caring, and I feel my heart getting bigger, stronger and fonder every day.
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I want to thank the EQUUS Foundation for letting me share my story - and the LIHSSRD and the Hampton Classic for providing competition opportunities for riders with special needs. I greatly treasure the incredible opportunity to ride in the Hampton Classic.

I am looking forward to 2019 - to working hard with my favorite mare, Prada, to be the best we can. I hope it will be our year to shine.
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The EQUUS Foundation would like to thank Sophie for sharing her story. No doubt Sophie and Prada will give it their best - together. Sophie is a force to be reckoned with - whether in the saddle or not!

About EQUUS Foundation: The EQUUS Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity established in 2002, also known as Horse Charities of America, the only national animal welfare charity in the United States 100% dedicated to protecting America's horses and strengthening the bond between people and horses. Donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. Contact the EQUUS Foundation, Inc., at 168 Long Lots Road, Westport, CT 06880, Tele: (203) 259-1550, E-Mail: mail@equusfoundation.org, Website: www.equusfoundation.org.

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