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Horse Therapy

April 15, 2010 by Victoria Strong
As you know Gwendolyn adoresmini horses. She just lights up whenever she is around them and clearly gets so much from seeing them. But Quicksilver, the mini horse breeder, is not super near us, which got me thinking about the possibility of being involved with a horse therapy non-profit called Hearts Therapeutic located here in Santa Barbara. I was hesitant to call them at first as I wasn't sure Gwendolyn was old enough or if our very special needs would fit in with their program -- and perhaps I was nervous about the idea of my delicate baby around BIG strong horses. As luck would have it, our friend started volunteering with Hearts recently and Gwendolyn naturally came up. So last week we ventured out for a casual meet and greet (i.e. meet the horses and see if this is something worth pursuing for Gwendolyn).

Before we even got in the car to go, I asked Gwendolyn if she wanted to see the horses and her entire body quivered with excitement. And when we arrived she was anxious to get out of the car giving me her "Hurry up, Mommy!" sound. Gwendolyn was in awe of the horses and didn't take her eyes off of them. She quickly started fussing telling me she wanted to get out of her stroller -- get closer to the horses. Now I like horses, but I don't have tons of experience with them so I wasa little nervous that the horses would be spooked by the sound of her suction machine or would try to pull her BiPap. But apart from nibbling her bright green sleeping bag (which I quickly tucked away so it no longer looked like a yummy grass treat) they weren't bothered by any of her equipment. In fact, something amazing happened...

It is as if they immediately knew Gwendolyn wanted nothing more than to be near them...that she needed them...because they whinnied a friendly greeting, they came over to us, they held very still, they turned to allow us to pat their necks, they whined when we walked away. It was amazing! This is especially powerful with one horse in particular. Tota is a big, beautiful, regal looking horse -- she made sure to show us her good side and all the muscles in her neck! And Tota is definitely a presence -- and a little intimidating. But Tota's body language completely changed when she saw Gwendolyn. She was ever so gentle, she was slow in her movements, almost as if she knew she needed to put me at ease. She came right up to the fence, bowed her head, blinked slowly into Gwendolyn's eyes, and I swear I felt an immediate and intense connection between them. Gwendolyn patted her neck, touched her nose, rubbed her cheek, and just gazed at her.This was thrilling to me, but I am now completely in love with Tota because when we spoke to the director and recounted our wonderful interaction with Tota she was amazed as Tota is known for her "spirit" and feisty nature.

We, of course, went back this week and this time we got to feed the horses carrots. We also got to meet all the other horses that had been out riding the week before. They each have their own clear and distinct personality. And they each warmed my heart. But Tota, beautiful proud Tota, has stolen my heart forever!

Talk About It

I am so happy to hear how Gwendolyn relates to the horses. We are a horse family--we are jumpers and have big gigantic warm bloods. Majestic is how I describe them. How fun for her to be able to interact with them so personally and to feed them, and boy do they remember visitors who bring them treats smile My younngest son is a competitive jumper and he loves riding so much that when he was picking a university to go to, he only considered and applied to universities with an equestrian team (club) an polo club. He ended up at Univeristy of Washington and we laughed that we not only paid for him to attend the university (and out of state tuition too), but two of his horses as well. LOL Zak also attended the Ojai Valley School for 2 years and was on the equestrian team--he is still in contact with his trainer from the school. I look forward to many more pictures of Gwendolyn and the horses. --Mari
Posted by Mari "Thorney" Roll on 2010-04-15 23:54:12
Wow! What a great experience for Gwendolyn and for you. Animals are so amazing with their abilities to understand what others need. Thanks for sharing such an uplifting story.
Posted by Kristen on 2010-04-16 07:26:53
How wonderful! My niece is an avid horse rider and she has always told me how they have such a keen sense and knowledge of humans--and that is obviously true! It is so wonderful that Gwendolyn is able to spend some time with these magnificent animals. Once again Victoria the experiences you provide for Gwendolyn are amazing----you conquer the fears and dive in! Way to go! Love the pictures....my students thought that they were amazing as well! Have a wonderful day! Be well... Lisa wink
Posted by Lisa on 2010-04-16 08:17:49
LOVE the "new" blog! I'm getting closer to finally taking the step to get my blog all beautified!! Well not nearly as fancy as this one! I too LOVE your stories and all that you do with Gwendolyn. I tell ya I cry EVERY TIME I read about your next adventure. My father is involved with Equis (sp) Heals in NC. These are absolutely wonderful programs. Your story reminds me of my trips to the zoo with Virginia. It sounds like you are like me in that if we could we would be at the zoo every day! Okay I had to LAUGH because your whole post was about how BIG and INTIMIDATING Tota is physically. And the first picture I opened up was of the white horse and I was thinking in my head, "What is Victoria talking about? That horse is barely bigger than Gwendolyn and isn't intimidating at all!" Seriously I was shaking my head wondering what you had been "seeing" in regards to Tota. Then I kept going through the pictures (I started at the end I think) and then I saw Tota! Whew glad to know neither of us is currently going crazy! Just a beautiful story and I look forward to seeing more pictures of Gwendolyn with Tota. Oh it just made me think of our dog Bull. This great big Boxer who looked FIERCE but I called our Gentle Giant. Tota is your Gentle Giant. Sending BIG HUGS your way, Molly
Posted by Molly Howsden on 2010-04-16 11:05:30
Oh wow, that's awesome! So happy to hear about the horse experience and I love hearing how well they related to her. We have thought about horse therapy too . . . thanks for showing us a great experience. Hugs from Iowa!!!
Posted by Sarah Turnbull on 2010-04-16 14:13:19
That is so good to hear. That must have been a blast for Gwendolyn. We've wanted to start horse therapy with our daughter that has type 2. Take care, Jon Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Posted by Jon Ricotta on 2010-04-16 14:27:30
Animals are much wiser than many give them credit for. I agree with Lisa, the ones around us can know us very well indeed. grin
Posted by Samer on 2010-04-16 15:16:16

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