The Sage

Sophia Vanslyke: A Journey From Hip Dysplasia to Horseback Riding

Freshman%2C+Sophia+Vansyke+during+her+weekly+practice+with+her+favored+horse%3A+Brighton.+On+many+occasion+Sophia+works+on+her+jumping+technique+with+her+many+horses+and+sometimes+takes+to+the+trails+for+a+hiking+experience+with+her+friends.
Freshman, Sophia Vansyke during her weekly practice with her favored horse: Brighton. On many occasion Sophia works on her jumping technique with her many horses and sometimes takes to the trails for a hiking experience with her friends.

Freshman, Sophia Vansyke during her weekly practice with her favored horse: Brighton. On many occasion Sophia works on her jumping technique with her many horses and sometimes takes to the trails for a hiking experience with her friends.

Grace Axtell

Grace Axtell

Freshman, Sophia Vansyke during her weekly practice with her favored horse: Brighton. On many occasion Sophia works on her jumping technique with her many horses and sometimes takes to the trails for a hiking experience with her friends.

Madison Young, Staff Writer

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With her running shoes laced and hair fixed in a ponytail, freshman Sophia Vanslyke is one of the first runners on the girls long distance track and field team to perch herself onto the stadium stairs, waiting for practice to begin.

At first glance, this young freshman seems calm, collected and put together. However, behind the genial stature that she presents is a student with a schedule so busy that most students would find difficulty maintaining it.

When she was in seventh grade, Vanslyke was persuaded by her two closest friends, freshmen Grace Axtell and Nicole Butcher, to try out horseback riding. Regardless of her already-hectic schedule, she began pursuing the sport, and she ended up finding a real love for the experience. She has continued to ride horses at Quail Haven Farms, north of Carlsbad, ever since, and it allows room within her schedule to continue horseback riding: which she has grown to love and appreciate.

One day meandering the halls of Aviara Oaks Middle School during passing period, Vanslyke realized that she had some tedious pain coming from her hip. What she once thought would be an annoying discomfort would soon become something that had never been expected. At first, she simply shrugged it off; however, when it came to strolling through the halls of Aviara Oaks Middle School with her hip constantly popping out of place, she knew that something was wrong.

“I had underlying hip dysplasia, which means the hip joint wasn’t fully covered by the socket, so it would pop in and out; they had to cut around the pelvis so that it covered the hip joint,” Vanslyke said.

The surgery Vanslyke underwent was mostly a success, except that it “nicked her sciatic nerve,” and left her with some numbness on the inside of her left foot. After an extensive recovery involving a wheelchair and then crutches, Vanslyke returned to all of the extracurriculars that she enjoyed before her surgery.

As her health improves with each passing day, Vanslyke races through her weeks maintaining her grades while still finding time to enjoy running and spend time on the saddle. This style of living, although chaotic, seems to work just fine for the freshman as long as she has the opportunity to accomplish her goals and simultaneously have fun enjoying life the way she wishes to live it.

“If I have track that day then I will finish our workout and then go straight from track to horseback riding, and then also I go over the weekend on Sundays. So, I manage to do schoolwork on Saturdays. Since I ride on Tuesdays, I do my Tuesday work on Monday,” Vanslyke said.

Quail Haven Farms’ location, where Vanslyke rides horses, can also be another trying factor in Vanslyke’s weekly schedule. Located in Bonsall, Vanslyke has to go hustle from track practice and race through traffic in order to have the opportunity to hold a bridle.

In December, Vanslyke had more than the lengthy distance from Carlsbad to Quail Haven Farms to agonize about. Bonsall was a part of the “Lilac Fires” that spread across 4,100 acres of San Diego county. The Quail Haven Farms, although nearby, was untouched by the fires.

“It was definitely a wake-up call for us since none of us normally think of fires being a huge risk, even though we probably should since it is so hot and dry out in Bonsall. Our barn was lucky and was able to evacuate all of the horses to over five different locations in the county, including the Del Mar Racetrack, before the fire got too close. In addition, our barn luckily was okay and did not suffer any damage,” Vanslyke said.

With the barn left safe and sound, Vanslyke plans to continue riding horses at Quail Haven Farms for as long as she can. Spending time with her closest friends, gaining knowledge and skills on a weekly basis, and creating lasting memories with her horses keep her returning every day she can.

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Sophia Vanslyke: A Journey From Hip Dysplasia to Horseback Riding