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Photo by Lisa Carolin. Ella, Leslie and Ben Naebeck, Ladybug and Tori Bancroft.

By Lisa Carolin

This year’s 80th Annual Chelsea Community Fair has proven to be a memorable debut experience for 9-year-old Ella Naebeck. The young equestrian has won numerous ribbons with two ponies named Ladybug and Bravo.

What makes it all the more impressive is that Ella doesn’t always feel well, but that doesn’t stop her from taking care of the ponies and the horse Nike she also rides at Tori Bancroft’s stables in Lyndon Township.

Ella was in the hospital six times in the last eight months. She has Type 1 diabetes, which according to her mom Leslie Naebeck, means waking up every couple of hours each night to monitor Ella’s sugar level.

“Diabetes doesn’t take a break,” said Leslie Naebeck, who said that Ella was diagnosed at age 3 with the disease. “Ella has been riding horses since she was 2 and has been seriously showing them the last four years. Horses are her life.”

Ella also has a dog named Hudson, a black lab service dog who can sense changes in Ella’s blood sugar and alerts the family.

“I like having Hudson,” said Ella. “She sleeps with me. It’s easier taking care of a dog than a horse.”

Ella is part of the Washtenaw County 4H Club called Cowboy U and her leader is Amy Creteau.

Even when she’s not feeling great, Ella insists that her mom take her to visit her ponies and horse twice a week. The Naebeck family, which includes dad Rob and Ella’s brother Ben, 8, live in Freedom Township. The kids attend Manchester schools. They drive a half hour to Lyndon Township to take care of the ponies and horse at Bancroft’s stables.

“Even when her life is turned upside down, this is something Ella can rely on,” said Bancroft. “Horses accept you for how you are at the moment.”

“Horses are a healing tool,” said Leslie Naebeck. “School comes first and then we go to the barn. We make it work, and that’s thanks to Ella’s determination.”

When asked whether she prefers to spend time with Ladybug, Bravo, or Nike, Ella responded, “I like them all.”

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