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Lydia Chapa: A Limitless Journey

Lydia Chapa: A Limitless Journey

Little Lydia Chapa loves Splash, the horse she rides at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind’s world-renowned Marianna Greene Henry (MGH) Special Equestrians Arena.

That’s not unusual, you might say. Everyone loves a beautiful animal. Well, for Lydia, throughout her life, she has had an overwhelming fear that usually sends her fleeing in terror at the sight of any of our furry friends.

That began to change quickly after Lydia came to the arena. Within a few hours on her first visit she was walking Splash around the arena and within a few weeks she was sitting atop the animal as peaceful and content as could be.

It was enough to bring tears to her mother, Jessica, who along with her husband, Mike, adopted Lydia from India in 2018. “I still remember seeing pictures of her first day at the arena, and she was helping walk Splash,” Jessica said. “I remember crying tears of joy because she was walking within a few feet of an animal instead of screaming and crying. Then it was only a few weeks after that when I received pictures of her actually riding Splash. I was so blown away that I just sat in my chair at work and cried some more.”

Lydia, who spent her first two years in an orphanage, was born with congenital glaucoma. When she came to her forever home in Talladega in 2018, she had no vision in her left eye, but she did have light perception. Despite undergoing additional surgeries and extensive eye care, Lydia has since developed a cataract and lost her ability to perceive light, which causes depth perception issues and orientation and mobility concerns.

But none of that is evident when she sits atop Splash, which she proudly now calls “her horse.”

She loves playing fun games like “Simon Says” with Splash and spending time with the MGH staff.

“Whenever we ride by the arena, she always asks how her horse is and if Splash is eating or sleeping or playing,” Jessica said. Through her time at MGHSE, which provides therapeutic programs such as hippotherapy, equine-facilitated learning, equine-facilitated psychotherapy, and speech therapy to some 300-400 children who are deaf, blind and multi-disabled, Lydia has begun to take small steps towards gaining independence, building self-confidence, and discovering the limitless possibilities with other animals as well.

“Splash is still the only animal she trusts, but in the last few months she has been brave enough to pet a goat and a small dog,” Jessica said. “Those are major milestones she has reached that I attribute to her being part of the MGH family, and I couldn’t be prouder.”