BAY MINETTE, Ala. (WKRG) — There are a lot of Remarkable Women along the Gulf Coast. After reading hundreds of nominations, four local women are finalists. One of them is a Baldwin County woman known for always putting others first, who has in a sense, performed ‘medical miracles’ — helping kids, including those who can’t afford to pay for treatment, achieve things doctors said they wouldn’t, all at the Buckaroo Barn. Kristye Chastang never stopped, even when she was diagnosed with cancer.
“She’s just the kind of person you want to be like,” said Arien Grosskurth, who works at Buckaroo Barn with Kristye.
Kristye practices hippotherapy, a form of physical therapy that uses horses to aid in the power of healing.
“They get a special bond with the horse,” said Kristye. “Just the movement of the horse and all the developmental positions that we put them in is a catalyst for them getting stronger. They just get stronger, faster, because they’re not just maintaining that position and that stability on a still surface. They’re on a moving therapeutic surface; The back of the horse. So it’s just an amazing tool.”
Over the past 17 years, Kristye and her team have helped hundreds of children and some adults at the Buckaroo Barn, like Nate, diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
“Nate really responds to her. And it’s great to find a physical therapist that can get the most out of your kid because trying to get at three or four year old to do what they’re supposed to do when it’s hard and when it’s scary, it’s hard,” said Nate’s mother, Elizabeth Staton.
And Ellie, who travels 2 and a half hours to work with Kristye.
“She’s grown so strong just from, from working here. The progress that I see Ellie has made and the encouragement from Kristye, just it’s, just seeing her in her life, in her hope that she has for all of the patients that she works with here,” said Ellie’s mother, Rosie Muth.
Children, never expected to walk are walking, thanks to the patience and drive of Kristye and her team.
“The parents have been told by doctors that their child will never walk, never talk. They might have told them that the child would be a vegetable, basically like no function whatsoever. And then they come out and Christy just pours into them, everything. She gives them her strength, her intelligence. We’ve seen so many miraculous things, but it’s always magical when you get to see a kid take their first steps,” said Grosskurth.
Kristye never turns away a child in need. If their family can’t afford to pay for therapy, it’s taken care of through the Buckaroo Foundation.
Kristye said, “There has become a big gap in what insurance pays and for these families. It’s just expensive, and so just wanted to take the financial burden off of those families so that they could give their kids the therapy that they needed to live their best life.”
Kristye never stopped working with kids, even in the face of her own cancer diagnosis in 2017.
She said, “I was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. My devotion was out of Ecclesiastes 3 and it was just, there is a time for mourning and there is a time for dancing. And I was like dadgum it, we’re not mourning yet. We are gonna dance!”
And dance she did, fighting breast cancer for a year until she beat it! But it returned with a vengeance in 2020.
“It came back in a lymph node and spread to my lungs, my lymph nodes, my spine, and eventually my brain,” said Kristye.
You would never know what Kristye’s going through, watching her with the kids and the horses, performing miracles.
“You can’t be around Kristie without like being raised up to be a better person, and she just has this endurance. Facing a cancer diagnosis one time was hard enough, and she still endured and came out here for the kids and worked through all of her treatments, and then to have a second diagnosis and work through that as well,” Grosskurth said.
“She’s there for everybody, just everybody. It doesn’t matter what situation, how they got here, the diagnosis, how medically fragile kid is, like just she’s just out there on the horse, smiling,” said Staton.
“Christie is truly a remarkable, remarkable lady,” said Muth.
Kristye said, “I try to be that because I know that when people believe in themselves they will live their best life and they can achieve great things.”
Kristye is a mother of three but considers all of the children she helps her children. The kids in her care continue hippotherapy until they reach their goal. As much as Kristye inspires them, she says they inspire her to stay strong, to push through obstacles, “to get on that horse and ride!”