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Sep 5, 2019 1:58 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Quogue Rider Won't Be Limited By Cerebral Palsey

Lauren Reischer, who happens to have cerebral palsey, participated in the Hampton Classic this year.
Sep 10, 2019 2:27 PM

Lauren Reischer will not tell anyone that she is extraordinary. She insists that her life is normal. This is both true and false.Ms. Reischer was as normal as can be as she sat upon her tall, dark brown horse, Reade, in the under-saddle class of the adult equitation division at the Hampton Classic on opening day, August 25. She was just another rider — slim, and polished looking in a navy show coat, hair tucked neatly into a black helmet, riding by in a sea of similar-looking riders piloting their horses around the ring that day. Like most of the other riders, she rode well and confidently but did not emerge with a ribbon.

It was Ms. Reischer’s fourth time competing at the Hampton Classic, but her first time showing on opening day — and that made all the difference.

Ms. Reischer, who just began her sophomore year at Brown University, was champion twice during her previous times showing at the Classic on Mondays while riding in the Long Island Horse Show Series for Riders with Disabilities. After years of hard work, she achieved what had long been a goal: to compete in the regular adult equitation division.

Ms. Reischer has cerebral palsy and uses crutches to help her get around when she’s not on horseback. She’s been riding for most of her life, and she credits the sport with helping her make great strides, in terms of her physical abilities.

Ms. Reischer is a New York City resident who lives in East Quogue during the summer months. In addition to pursuing a double major in education and public policy at Brown, and volunteering her time and energy with GallopNYC, a therapeutic riding program for children and adults with disabilities and veterans based in New York, she has also been a member of the Brown equestrian team and has spent years working on her riding.

For Ms. Reischer, riding is both a sport she actively enjoys and also a therapy that enhances her physical capabilities.

Cerebral palsy can make it hard for the brain to recognize the legs as two independent appendages, and the condition also makes it hard to keep the feet flat. Riding addresses both of those issues, because the legs must be separated to sit on the horse, and keeping the feet flat, with heels pushed downward, is key to finding balance in the saddle.

The motivation to compete alongside able-bodied riders in the Classic came three years ago. In 2016, Ms. Reischer won champion in the LIHSSRD division on a horse named Opportunity Knocks, aka Ollie, owned by her friend Halle Murphy.

After that win, Ms. Reischer said she decided she would not return to the Hampton Classic until she felt she was ready to compete in the regular division. She has worked since then to improve her riding and felt she was ready this year.

Her debut in the regular adult equitation division will be part of an upcoming documentary by people at Brown University, giving insight into her life as a disabled student-athlete at the school. The idea for the documentary came after Ms. Reischer had a day where she was given the opportunity to take over Brown University’s Snapchat and showcase what life is like for a disabled student-athlete. By the end of the day, the school’s communications department decided it wanted to do a longer video feature on her.

The movie features interviews with Ms. Reischer’s father, Sol Reischer, as well as several of her Brown Equestrian teammates, coach Michaela Scanlon, and also the trainers from Silverstone Stables in Rhode Island, Dawn Dorrance and Tommy Andreozzi. Ms. Reischer boards her horse, Beningnity, at Silverstone during the school year, and trains with Dorrance and Andreozzi.

Ms. Reischer said her goal for agreeing to participate in the documentary was simple.

“I really just wanted to show both how normal my life is, and how special having horses makes it,” she said. “It’s a balance. Despite my CP, my life as a student-athlete is just like any other student-athlete: I go to practice, I work hard on different drills and exercises, I fulfill my team obligations.”

She acknowledged, however, that horseback riding is unique when compared to other more traditional sports, and added that her condition makes her relationship with the sport differ in some ways as well.

“My relationship with my sport is truly special,” she said. “It isn’t [a sport] that only happens over the course of four quarters in a game. It’s something that is with me 24/7, 365 days a year. Too many days off from riding has the potential to affect my physical well-being. I need my sport to keep my non-equestrian life normal. Without riding keeping me fit, loose and conditioned, my body doesn’t work the best it can, which in turn affects my independence and ability to navigate daily life.”

Ms. Reischer had help navigating logistics of showing at the Classic in the form of friends and other supporters who helped her achieve her goals. She credited longtime friend Heather Jarvis with being by her side to help her adjust her stirrups and girth, mount and dismount, and answer any other horse-related questions or issues she may have.

Ms. Jarvis and Ms. Reischer are near each other all year, as Ms. Jarvis is a student at Johnson and Wales University, less than five minutes from Brown. Ms. Jarvis helped ride and exercise the two horses Ms. Reischer brought to the Hampton Classic, Reade and Beningnity, riding Reade in the over-fences classes in the adult equitation division at the Classic. Ms. Jarvis is a collegiate rider as well, and they ride and train together at Silverstone Stables during the school year.

“She is just so helpful to me always, especially since after all these years of understanding how my body works, we have things down to a science,” Ms. Reischer said.

For the Hampton Classic, Ms. Reischer turned to Alex Maracic of Amara Equestrian LLC, based in North Salem, New York, for training services.

Ms. Reischer said she is excited for the documentary, not just because it showcases her life but also because it shines a light on GallopNYC and the work that the therapeutic riding center does with riders with various disabilities and challenges.

“The movie was also supposed to highlight the magic of therapeutic riding,” Ms. Reischer said. “I try to show this through my own experiences, and explain how I now have had a bit of a role-reversal. Now it is my passion to help other riders with disabilities. Being part of Brown Equestrian, a real team, has shown me more than ever before how amazing it is to share the magic of horses with others.”

Ms. Reischer loaned her horses to GallopNYC for the Hampton Classic on the second day of showing, and Kylie Long won champion aboard Reade in the spotter division, winning all three classes. “Moments like that warm my heart and keep me falling more in love with horses and the work of GallopNYC every day,” Ms. Reischer said.

She has big and clear goals for her future, both in terms of riding and academics. She is hoping to improve her confidence showing in the over-fences classes, and is planning on possibly pursuing a master’s degree after finishing her undergraduate work in 2021.

In addition to riding, Ms. Reischer also belongs to the Kappa Delta sorority, is president of the Panhellenic Council (which oversees all the sororities on campus), is a team representative for the Student-Athlete Advising Committee, is her equestrian team’s ambassador for the Brown Athletics’ Vartran-Gregorian School partnership, and is also a brand ambassador for The Economist magazine.

“It’s safe to say, I have my hands full,” she said.

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