Taylor Lowe’s dream was to be able to ride horses, but the possibility of realizing her objective didn’t seem plausible.
The aspiring horseman was suffering from severe scoliosis, having being diagnosed with the medical condition as an 8-year-old. Lowe’s grandmother first noticed that her shoulder blades weren’t aligned and that one was more salient than the other in protruding outward.
For the preponderance of the population, that would mean foregoing a dream. However, that was far from the case for Lowe, who had a passion for horses and a burning desire to ride.
Lowe’s mother, Penny Schultz-Stanford, a public safety officer for the Aiken Department of Public Safety, supported her daughter’s dream to ride. Lowe began to realize her dream as a 9-year-old, participating in the ADPS Horse Summer Camp, conducted by ADPS Cpl. Sonny Ford.
“The first time she went to the camp, she was really too young to go,” said Schultz-Stanford. “She had such a desire that Sonny decided to let her go anyway. She was in a brace. A scoliosis brace. A full torso brace. It was kind of difficult for her to ride in that.”
The intrepid Lowe persisted, and she evolved as a horseman, first riding in the small ring and eventually graduating to the large ring, said Schultz-Stanford. Lowe wore the Boston Torso Brace for three years and was subjected to being fitted to a new one every six months as she continued to grow. The curvature in her spine became progressively worse and was at 48 degrees.
“Sonny could see how much she loved riding and wanted her to have that opportunity before having surgery,” said Schultz-Stanford. “During this time, she continued her training and lessons with the horses. Sonny would instruct her on proper posture which helped Taylor strengthen, maintain and develop her back and abdominal muscles that had been weakened by constantly wearing the brace.”
When the curvature of Lowe’s spine progressed to 68 percent and her spinal column was becoming precariously close to compromising a number of her vital organs, including her heart and lungs, the decision was made to have surgery performed.
The 11-year-old faced a great deal of fear, but one way she was able to cope with the stress associated with the impending operation was by thinking about the horses and returning to the saddle, said Schultz-Stanford.
Lowe’s procedure, performed at Palmetto Richland Children’s Hospital, was composed of attaching two titanium rods, one hook and 20 pins. The curvature was corrected, and the mounted hardware was put in place. The operation also included the insertion of a cadaver bone between the vertebrae and the eventual fusing of the bone. The surgery included 12 fusions.
“After the surgery, the next thing she wanted to do was to go back to Sonny’s and to see the horses, talk to the horses and groom the horses,” said Schultz-Stanford. “She was doing all that even though she couldn’t ride, and finally when she was able to ride, the first thing she wanted to do was to jump on the back of a horse.”
The horse camp provided Lowe with a number of opportunities, and she found herself riding in parades and in other events. The bond that Lowe has forged with her equine friends continues to shape her life. The 15-year-old attends South Aiken High School.
“It’s about building a specific relationship with the horse and establishing mutual trust, said Lowe, who is shy and reticent but extremely passionate and determined. “And when you’re in the saddle and going fast, it’s the ultimate freedom.”
Lowe hasn’t been riding since Ford passed away earlier this year and would love nothing more than to have the opportunity to ride again.
“Riding gives you a goal,” said Lowe. “I love riding.”
Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004. Among the awards Baugh has won are the 2003 Raleigh Burroughs Award as the turf writer making the most impact on the Florida Thoroughbred Industry. Baugh is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, worked for North America’s leading Thoroughbred breeder Adena Springs in Ocala, Fla., and interned at Thoroughbred Racing Communications in New York, N.Y.