(Contributed)                                Hannah Carson rides a pony because it’s easier for her to tack up.

(Contributed) Hannah Carson rides a pony because it’s easier for her to tack up.

OCOP: ‘Comfort through animals’

Hannah Carson has had a passion for riding since age four.

Riding a horse is where Hannah Carson feels the most normal. That’s because once she’s back on flat ground, Carson stands significantly shorter than other 16-year-old girls.

Hannah has a condition called dwarfism, meaning she will always be considerably shorter than her peers.

“In public school, kids would notice. At home, it’s fine and I don’t really notice. I do feel a bit weird in the public, especially with younger kids because they tend to notice a lot so it’s hard to interact with them,” Carson said about growing up with the genetic condition.

Carson’s dwarfism is genetic and is easily diagnosed in utero through an ultrasound. Due to referral wait-lists for a geneticist, Carson was officially diagnosed when she was nine months old.

The form of dwarfism that affects Carson is called achondroplasia, which, in her case, was a random spontaneous mutation.

At home, Carson has adapted to dwarfism by using stools and getting help from family members. She has a variety of pets, including a gecko, birds and a dog.

An animal-lover at heart, Carson began horseback riding lessons when she was young.

The North Fraser Therapeutic Riding Association is where Carson said she feels best. She’s been riding with the NFTRA since she was four, and plans to continue into her adulthood.

“It lets me forget that I’m different, which is nice. The horses don’t care about my size. They can definitely tell how your feeling that day since they can read your emotions, which can be a bad thing.”

Carson currently rides a pony named Joy. She said Joy is a suitable horse for her to ride since she can easily put tack on her by using a stool.

“Tacking up, sometimes the horses are taller than me. I have one horse now that’s a bit taller than me so I can use a stool. If I fall off, it’s also safer for me since she’s a bit smaller.”

English-style riding is what Carson prefers, and she has ridden in competitions for the last three years.

A longstanding goal of Carson’s is to compete in the Paralympics for dressage. At 16, Carson will have to continue training until she’s 18 in order to qualify for the Paralympics.

Carson’s education goals also include furry friends and creatures. She plans on going to college to become a veterinary assistant, with future plans to own a business as an animal educator.

As an animal educator, Carson wants to travel to schools to teach kids how to interact with animals.

“It started a couple years ago,” Carson said about her career aspirations. “I really like to teach people about animals and I’m in 4-H, as well, so I have the public speaking ability. Now through 4-H and riding I’m able to talk to people comfortably. I love working with animals, especially exotic animals.”

Carson said the best part of being upon her horse is feeling free.

“The freedom, being able to do something by myself and just being around the animals.”