NICOLE: Cornell University is home to 16,000 students, 300 buildings, and 85 horses.
KINSEY HENRY: “I’ve always wanted a horse.”
NICOLE: Kinsey Henry can reign in any of those horses at the stables but rides Moonlight at practice.
KINSEY: “Coming here and learning how to ride, and how to grow into the sport a lot more is something I really wanted to do.”
NICOLE: She’s a proud member of the Special Olympics Equestrian Team, ‘The Highriders’ in Ithaca, New York.
KINSEY: “It’s not all about winning. It’s basically about going out and showing people you can do this and also that you can prove to yourself that you can do this.”
NICOLE: This isn’t Kinsey’s first rodeo – when it comes to Special Olympic. There’s nothing she won’t try.
KINSEY: “I’ve started in bowling. I’ve done track and field. I’ve done bocce. I’ve done everything that you can think of.”
NICOLE: You see, Kinsey is on the Autism Spectrum.
PAULA WEDEMEYER: “It was a bit difficult to coach her at first because I could tell when she was getting uncomfortable. She had a face that she would make.”
NICOLE: Paula Wedemeyer is one of her coaches. No horseplay here, she’s seen a huge difference in Kinsey…
PAULA: “Over the saddle.”
NICOLE: …over such a short time.
PAULA: “So it took a while for her to, I think, build the trust and become vocal. And I told her one time I said, “You’ll never control your world unless you speak up for yourself.”
NICOLE: Kinsey’s wanted to ride horses her entire life. But there were no teams in Upstate New York for anyone with special needs to join. Until the idea to start one fell into the lap of someone who lives right here – just a few miles from Paula.
LISA KRIZMAN: “Good boy.”
NICOLE: Earlier this year, Lisa Krizman gave Paula a call.
LISA: “And I really wanted a professional coach to make sure our athletes were safe. I wanted it done right.”
NICOLE: Before they knew it, the team was read. To head to the starting line.
LISA: “These are the same athletes that no one wants to give a chance. But here they are on a horse. Mastering that horse, keeping them under control.”
NICOLE: She’s also kept track of Kinsey’s progress, in this binder.
LISA: “Speaking in front of groups, improving her physical ability, time management, and confidence.”
NICOLE: Kinsey’s a friend to her coaches, her horses, but especially – her dad.
KEVIN HENRY: “It’s what you always want for your child. You always want your child to be able to succeed. You want them to always do what they’re capable of doing.”
NICOLE: Kevin Henry is her number one fan. He can’t believe how far she’s come.
KEVIN: “You could see differences from week to week. Confidence in herself. Confidence between her and the animal. Between her and the coaches.”
NICOLE: So, at Skidmore College, it was time to put her skills to the test. Kinsey took her horse up to Saratoga and at the State Games; Her horse…
ANNOUNCER: “KINSEY HENRY!”
KINSEY: “If you go out and put all your heart and soul into it, you know you didn’t leave anything behind.”
NICOLE: Many of us can doubt our ability to do something we actually want to try. But sometimes – believing in yourself is all it takes.
KINSEY: “Keep pushing forward. Even when you know there’s going to be times that you want to quit. But never give up.”
NICOLE: In Saratoga Springs, Nicole Aponte, NCC News.