A boy and his horse blog image header

Brett and Hannah Stout were in the hospital and overjoyed with their new arrival, a son named Sagen, who would change their lives in multiple ways. By all accounts, Sagen was born without any issues. It wasn’t until their pediatrician noticed there were some developmental delays in Sagen that they realized there might be something wrong. The pediatrician suggested that the Stouts get Sagen to a physical therapist and see if they could help him with sitting up and crawling.

a family of four

The Stout Family Brett, Sagen, Hannah, and Silas

Brett and Hannah will tell you; these days were tough. They didn’t see a lot of marked improvement and they were running themselves ragged by having therapy morning and evening for Sagen. They persisted not knowing what the future would hold, but they held on to hope.

Not getting the answers they needed, the Stouts made the costly decision to do gene testing on themselves and Sagen. The day the results came back was a flood of emotions. The news landed on them like a jet. Sagen had been diagnosed with Pitt Hopkins Syndrome. A rare disease caused by a mutated gene (TCF4) found on his 18th chromosome. They were told he would never speak, possibly never walk, and never be able to live independently. This news devastated Brett and Hannah. They never in a million years expected to hear that their son was one of only 500 children who have been diagnosed with this rare disease. In an instant, their son’s future seemed hopeless. This news changed how they viewed life, and they began to navigate this new and unexpected chapter.

Because Sagen’s disease is so rare, there are many gray areas when it comes to helping him. There isn’t enough research to find many concrete solutions to his problems. However, therapy has been the only thing that is a staple for him hitting milestones and improving his quality of life.

Sagen receives therapy at the Turn Center a few days a week. Brett and Hannah found a lot of comfort in a Facebook Group that connects Pitt Hopkins families from all over the world. One of the therapies that many of the families with children who have been diagnosed with Pitt Hopkins recommended was equine therapy. Brett and Hannah’s family members recommend they check out the 7 Star Therapeutic Riding Center in Amarillo.

a boy on a horse surrounded by therapists

Sagen Stout receiving therapy at 7 Star

Recently, the Amarillo Area Foundation awarded a grant for 7 Star through its discretionary grant program. The $60,000 grant allows 7 Star to continue helping children like Sagan, as well as veterans that have been diagnosed with PTSD. Equine therapy has been in existence for decades and the research shows that it’s a very effective tool. The methods used at 7 Star have proven highly effective, especially for children who are still developing physically, emotionally, and intellectually. The motion of the horse optimizes muscle and nerve development as well as balance for those whose physical challenges prevent them from standing and/or walking. Riding builds confidence and often encourages motivation levels. Because horses are prey animals, they provide immediate feedback that can redirect behavioral and physical clues a child may give them.

“We are honored to be the recipient of a $60,000 Amarillo Area Foundation Discretionary Grant from the Katherine E. Brady Fund. This grant will allow us to provide scholarships for children and our services at no charge to veterans and their families. Without funding like this grant, we would be unable to serve our current clients or expand our reach to new clients in need of equine therapy,” said Courtnie Dodgen, Director of Development, 7 Star Therapeutic Riding Center. “We see our horses help heal people on a daily basis. These daily miracles are why we do what we do. Our clients inspire our horses to go above and beyond in taking care of their special cargo and welcome these clients as guests into their herd. Our horses inspire our clients to build strength and see things from new perspectives.”

On a physical level, the act of riding benefits neurological function, muscle development, balance and equilibrium, and a horse can provide a renewed sense of mobility for those suffering from injuries or disease affecting their ability to walk. Horses are especially beneficial for those suffering emotional trauma by providing a special bond in partnership with a horse. Sagen has been in 7 Star’s therapy program for just about 2 years. Brett and Hannah have seen the core strength and balance in Sagan increase through this therapy. He is also self-correcting when he starts to fall.

a child on a horse and handlers

Sagen during equine therapy at 7 Star

a child with a horse

Sagen before therapy

Today, Sagen is progressing and the Stouts hope for him to be able to walk in the near future. You can follow along Sagen’s journey through FacebookInstagram, or by following the hashtag #SagenStrongTX. To learn more about Pitt Hopkins, CLICK HERE.

“Our clients, whether a young child or an older veteran, find the physical, emotional and mental healing they are searching for at 7 Star Therapeutic Riding Center. We are so grateful to have partners like the Amarillo Area Foundation that see and believe in our mission and give us the much-needed funding to continue allowing our clients to find healing through the grace and strength of horses,” said Dodgen.

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