Sofia Martinez has the genetic condition Batten Disease, which means that — among other challenges — she’s blind.
“When she’s walking, she has to be so careful about not tripping over something,” said her mom, René Satterfield.
But when Sofia is on a horse, it’s a different story. The 15-year-old Prosser girl doesn’t have to worry about obstacles, about running into something.
“There’s a lot of freedom,” her mom said.
That’s a big part of why Sofia loves horseback riding, and why she loves coming to sessions at Therapeutic Riding of Tri-Cities, or TROT.
The Pasco nonprofit offers therapeutic and adaptive riding, plus hippotherapy — a therapy strategy that uses equine movement — and dog therapy.
Satterfield said it’s a blessing to her family.
The community can learn more about TROT and dip into their wallets to help during the organization’s upcoming fundraiser.
The Boots and Buckles event is at 6 p.m. March 4 at the Richland Community Center. It will include dinner, music and live and silent auctions.
Tickets are on sale now. TROT is also in need of sponsors for the event, said Cynthia MacFarlan, founder.
MacFarlan spent 30 years as a speech and language pathologist before starting the nonprofit in 2014.
It serves riders with special needs, from children through adults.
TROT has certifications from the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) and the American Hippotherapy Association.
Along with MacFarlan, the TROT crew includes riding instructors, physical therapists and numerous others who assist in the ring.
The two therapy horses are Cocoa, an Arabian/mustang gelding, and Cowboy, a Quarter Horse/Paint gelding. Therapy dog Camry is also part of the team.
TROT kicked off with a pilot program of four riders. Last year, it had 33 riders.
The organization is gearing up for its next session, starting at the end of March. Registration is open now.
MacFarlan said the therapy TROT offers has proven physical benefits, from strengthening the spine to increasing joint mobility, boosting the cardiovascular system and improving coordination.
There are other benefits too.
“(Horses) touch your soul in a way that doesn’t happen as often with people,” she said. “There’s something about animal-assisted therapy that is very effective and efficient. (Animals) don’t mince words and just go right to the core of a person. There’s a connection that is magical.”
That’s been the case for Sofia.
The Prosser girl was diagnosed with Batten Disease in elementary school, when her eyesight began to fail.
The neurological disease is progressive. People with juvenile onset, like Sofia, generally live into their early 20s.
For Sofia’s family, “it’s all about quality of life because we know we don’t have time. It’s all about making those moments,” Satterfield said.
They visited Paris, a dream of Sofia’s. They swam with dolphins. They make TROT sessions a priority.
Sofia loves to take spins around the ring. The Herald visited with her last summer after a ride.
“It’s fun,” the teen said. “Even though I’m blind, I can still do things like ride a horse.”
She said she likes turning left and right. She likes to trot, saying “(it’s) very bouncy.”
Satterfield enjoys coming to TROT too. She bonds with other parents. She watches her daughter fearlessly climb into the saddle.
She watches a smile spread across the girl’s face.
“It’s like, for an hour we can both come and the world stops and we’re happy. And it’s not doctor’s appointments and insurance bills and (Individualized Education Plans) and everything else,” she said. “It’s just happiness.”
To learn more about TROT, including registering for the next session, buying tickets for the fundraiser or becoming a sponsor, go to trot3cities.org.
IF YOU GO
What: Therapeutic Riding of Tri-Cities’ Books and Buckles fundraiser.
When: 6 p.m. March 4.
Where: Richland Community Center, 500 Amon Park Drive.
Cost: Tickets are $50. They’re available at trot3cities.org. TROT also is looking for event sponsors.