For nearly 30 years, Blue Rider Stables in Great Barrington has provided rehabilitation services through therapeutic horseback riding. This summer, Blue Rider received one of their biggest challenges when Khali Zabian arrived for her first lesson.  

Last year, after being hit by a car, Khali nearly died. But through months of hard work, she’s taking the small steps to one day walk on her own again. 

Connecting Point’s Ross Lippman introduces us to the Zabian family, and the unlikely survival of their daughter.  

Read the full transcript:

Ross Lippman, Connecting Point: Most days start and end the same at Blue Rider stable in Great Barrington. Really, all day long, the sounds are the same.

Becky Dadonna, Blue Rider Stables: There, now we’re fast, too.

Ross Lippman: But for the last 29 years, every client is different, with unique needs that go way beyond learning to ride a horse.

Becky Dadonna: We’re good right now.

Ross Lippman: Like 20-year-ld Khali Zabian.

Becky Dadonna,: Can you ask her to walk? What do we say? Walk on?

 Khali Zabian, Blue Rider Stable Client: Yeah.

Becky Dadonna: Good job, pal.

Ross Lippman: This is her seventh week riding.

Becky Dadonna: How are you doing? How’s that elbow, doing over there?

Ross Lippmant: Each step in trot alongside instructor Becky Dadonna–

Becky Dadonna: You don’t have to hold the handle, you can just hold the reign.

Ross Lippman: — is designed to provide Khali physical therapy.

Did you think Khali would be able to make the type of recovery she has so far?

Becky Dadonna: I really didn’t think that we’d be progressing as quickly as we’re progressing.

Ross Lippman: But to understand how significant moments like this are —

Becky Dadonna: Let’s watch what mom’s doing up here.

Ross Lippman: — you have to see what Khali’s mother, Lisa, saw on the night of August 7th, 2019.

Lisa Zabian, Khali’s Mom: They came in and they said, you need to come see Khali. So my husband and I, they brought us in to the emergency room and she was on the table. Her eyes rolled back in her head. She was non-responsive, obviously, and they were like, “kiss her, give her a kiss, tell her you love her,” because I think they didn’t think she was going to make it.

Ross Lippman: Khali had been driving when she struck the guardrail near Fountain Pond in Great Barrington. According to police, while she was outside her car along Route Seven, she was hit by another vehicle, breaking multiple bones and causing severe brain damage.

Once you saw her, did you think she was going to make it?

Lisa Zabian: I think I did. I — there was no way I was accepting the fact that she was going to die. And I just, from the second I got that phone call from Ali, I just started praying and I just I didn’t stop for a second. I just kept praying and praying and praying.

And I just said, just keep her alive. Because if she’s alive, then I know she will heal.

Ross Lippman: As Khali’s condition slowly improved —

Lisa Zabian: Her first sitting up experience like this.

Ross Lippman: — Lisa started documenting every moment, from opening her hand —

Lisa Zabian: Khali! Now close your hand.

Go ahead, close it Khali, make it tight!

Ross Lippman: — to opening her eyes —

Lisa Zabian: Hold my hand so you can sit up tall.

Ross Lippman: –Sitting up —

Lisa Zabian: Sit up tall! Keep following.

Ross Lippmant: — first steps. Every small victory that can come until finally, she was home again.

Lisa Zabian: Here we go, Khal! Welcome home!

Becky Dadonna: Can you ask him to walk on?

Khali Zabian: Yeah, walk on.

Ross Lippman: Khali’s days are filled with the work to regain full mobility, which includes her weekly visit to Blue Rider.

Lisa Zabian: So again, I was praying one morning and I was like, you know what? She needs to ride a horse. And Khali never liked horses.

Ross Lippman: So, you specifically said she needs to be riding a horse?

Lisa Zabian: I’m like “she needs to ride a horse.”

Ross Lippman: Why a horse?

Lisa Zabian: I don’t know. I’m like, she needs to ride a horse. She needs to do therapy on a horse.

 Becky Dadonna: And show me how tall you can sit.

Khali Zabian: I mean, at first, you know, as a little, like, scared when I first got on everything. Though, with her behind me.

And also, you know, they’re also holding my legs in the exact spot that they should stay.

Becky Dadonna: We’ve dealt with some, really fun challenges over the years, and Khali’s seemed…like we had our work cut out for us.

Khali Zabian: I thought that’s what it was like?

Ross Lippman, Connecting Point: And it’s becoming easier for Khali.

Khali Zabian:  And that was like, a while ago.

Becky Dadonna: That was a while ago, wasn’t it?

Khali Zabian: Yeah, it was,

Ross Lippman: The strength required to stay upright while riding Faulker, one of Blue Rider’s therapy horses, is paying off in every other aspect of her life.

Becky Dadonna: Three, two, one, oooh!

Ross Lippman: Like on her daily walk —

Lisa Zabian: Khali, say hi!

Ross Lippman: –through Fairmount Cemetery. It’s right across the street from the Zabian’s home, and where Lisa says Khali would have been laid to rest had things ended the way doctors expected 14 months ago.

But now Khali hardly ever rests.

Lisa Zabian: I don’t want your foot to start hurting again.

Ross Lippman: Her goals are too big to stop now.

Khali Zabian: My next goal is to be able to walk without my brace and just walk like everyone else, you know, get to jogging and running again.

Lisa Zabian: I want to show that you can get through a tragedy. And not only can you get through it, but you can get through it with joy and laughter and tears. And all of it, and it’s all going to be OK, especially when you walk with God.