Thanks to the Texas/Louisiana chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Lyons family of Parachute, CO, 16-year-old Bradley Skinner received his dream-come-true wish to ride with the internationally-famous trainer and horse whisperer John Lyons. The chapter’s coordinator, Julie Baldwin, acknowledged that this wish was a first for Make-A-Wish, and the Lyons considered Skinner’s request quite an honor. This heartwarming story was sourced by Ryan Hoffman of the Citizen Telegram on May 24. It is an even more intriguing story because Skinner carefully considered his options and, after eight years, he finally knew he wanted to learn something that would stay with him.
Skinner had come through his childhood with systemic scleroderma, diagnosed in Houston when he was only eight years old. It is a rare disorder “characterized by the buildup of scar tissue in the skin and internal organs, potentially causing organ failure, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.” Anywhere from 50 to 300 cases per one million people occur at any given time.
He has a bright outlook on life and says of his condition, “I’m doing much better than I was. Now the only thing that it really affects is my hands and my grip.”
In 2013 Skinner received an unexpected gift from his grandfather – a young horse. Named Kansas, his grandfather had saved the colt from the slaughterhouse. Skinner was thrilled beyond expectation and stayed with the trailer and the horse for three days. It soon became evident that Kansas had suffered trauma from his slaughterhouse experiences, leaving him skittish and fearful, and afraid of human touch. With determination and kindness, Skinner gentled Kansas to his touch. Slowly, the horse became used to the whole family but remained unbroken. His training was a major task ahead of the family and they researched trainers. Young Skinner set his sights on John Lyons and by February 2015, he decided his wish. In early May, the family was on the way to meet the Lyons.
Lyons said, “We definitely wanted to do it. It was a great honor to be asked.”
Transporting Kansas by trailer was no easy task for Tim and Claire Weatherby, who volunteered to transport the horse. After a long two-hour struggle, Kansas was finally loaded into the trailer. Neither Weatherby thought Kansas would ever be ridden considering the fuss and bad behavior he put up.
But Skinner had made a wise wish. Lyons was the right man for Kansas, and he worked his magic on the unruly horse. Day 1 was dedicated to leading Kansas; Day 2 introduced the saddle; Day 3 and Day 4 was riding and bonding for Kansas. By Day 5, Skinner was able to get on Kansas to ride. Nervous, afraid, and unsure of himself, Skinner managed to mount Kansas. From that moment on, the 16-year-old could not stop smiling. He grasped the reins with his hardened hands and rode alongside the famous John Lyons on his own horse. Skinner will never forget this moment.
This magical trip totaled upwards of $7,300 and could never have been possible without the Make-A-Wish Foundation, John and Jody Lyons, and Skinner’s parents.
A happy Bradley Skinner smiled when he said, “I don’t regret coming here and making this my wish. I’ll never forget it.”