OSWE is an Independent Ontario Not For Profit Working Equitation Organization
Juvenile Arthritis Equestrian Ambassador
OSWE Youth Member
Natalija is an Ontario Society For Working Equitation member who competes in the OSWE youth division. She recently won second place in the January Virtual show with her horse, Variety Gem.
Natalija currently schools in Working Equitation and Eventing, with her coach Barbara Waterfield.
Natalija was diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis at 4 years of age, when during a family vacation she began refusing to walk. Despite not being injured, her knee had swollen up 'like a baseball'. Since her diagnosis of Juvenile Arthritis Natalija has faced many challenges, says Mark Petronis, her father, "but the biggest challenge has been that very few people are aware of this condition, including many of her teachers. She has learned to adapt to the physical aspect, but this has had a huge mental toll on Natalija."
Despite the ongoing, daily struggles associated with managing JIA at school and socially, and missing many sport activities that are not suitable for her, Natalija looks forward to her riding to gain strength, confidence and to spend time with her horse,
Natalija Petronis with coach, Barbara Waterfield
What is Juvenile Arthritis?
Juvenile Arthritis is serious condition of the joints, bones and muscles is that challenges children and youth. Young patients often experience extreme pain, swelling and stiffness in many joints, which can limit their day-to-day activities. Kids and teens with these chronic conditions face special challenges as they painfully work their way through school and adolescence, which are already difficult enough.
Keeping young patients in remission of the disease so they are able to engage in healthy activity is the goal of dedicated health care specialists and researchers in the field of Rheumatic Disease.
Riding with JIA
Natalija explains that her condition causes her to miss out on many activities and social events which has impacted her confidence and self-esteem. "It's hard to explain to others that you have limitations when they do not believe that children can have arthritis."
She is often not able to be included with peers during school and after school activities due to restrictions, and cannot pursue some of the high impact activities that might be popular with her peers, like ballet, gymnastics, trampolines.
Riding is a low impact activity that she can do, and that she feels gives her strength and confidence.
Natalija explains that the high doses of medication necessary to manage her pain often makes her feel sick.
Despite constant knee pain, especially when dismounting, and a few falls that have triggered flare ups, Natalija enjoys the challenges in riding, and has found her stride!
"Despite all the challenges, I want to ride, so I suck it up!"
In effort to raise awareness for Juvenile Arthritis and help fundraise for local children and families, OSWE has identified The Division of Rheumatology, at MacMaster University's Department of Pediatrics to he the recipient of our Charity Fundraiser, OSWE Battle of the Breeds Speed Challenge, on May 26, 2023 at Ancaster Fairground.
The Division of Rheumatology at McMaster University’s Department of Pediatrics has a dedicated group of doctors, nurses, researchers, and educators who are devoted to the care of children and youth with rheumatic diseases. Annually, the team cares for over 400 children and families who visit McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton. This dedicated team is also responsible for ground-breaking research in the field of juvenile arthritis and other rheumatic conditions. In this way, the team not only improves the health of children in our community, but their work touches families around the world.
With the support of sponsors, our team can continue to conduct the much needed research needed to help our young patients and their families affected by arthritis and other rheumatic diseases.