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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Horsetalk Hippotherapy

I figure since It's such a huge part of my battle with this unforgiving illness, that I should talk about the equine programs I am in. I've always dreamed of horses, since I was a kid. My first word was 'horse', and whenever we'd visit GA to see my grandpa, he always let us ride his horses. He used to work on a large ranch, and he'd bring me in to sit on the hay bales, and watch him work. I was amazed at how he handled the big animals, like they were his best friends. he taught me a lot, about watching carefully, making sure not to walk behind the horse, treating them with patience, etc. But we hadn't gone in the longest time. The year before I got sick, November '06 we finally went down to pay both my grandparents a visit. He doesn't work on the ranch anymore, but inspects houses. Since him and Gaga (she wants to be called that, gaga instead of grandma) split up when my mother was a child, we visit Northern and Southern, GA. for a week each. At Gaga's house I went hunting with papa, and at grandpa's house we went on long trail rides through the fields and down the long dirt roads of Tifton. It was great, to hold all those memories. he was certainly the one to spark my passion for horseback riding.

When I became ill, and was doing physical therapy to keep me moving, my traditional doctor gave us a flier she received from another patient. It talked and explained about a program called hippo therapy, right in NH. I was eager to read on about how it did multiple therapies, all on horseback. my mother contacted the manager (speech pathologist/lesson instructor) Toby. She explained how expensive it was, and how it worked, also how she had never done children with a chronic headache disability. She was used to working with Down Syndrome, and Autism. All the worst developmental disorders out there. People came from MA, and VT. She was well known in New England. It would originally cost 90$ to do 30 minutes of this program every other Saturday, but as the week went on and Toby thought about it, she decided to only charge 25$ for the arena rent fee. What a great person.

From there, my dreams spilled out. The first session determined I was very independent with these large animals, and wouldn't require OT, ST, or PT. Then we decided to move it to every weekend. And I got better and better with the horses, I was now doing more of a lesson, and I was up in the saddle. This was a time where lots of healing and hopefulness fell into place. I started staying all day and helping with the horses and other kids. I was having a great time and learning so much! This program, called Horsetalk, was the best thing that ever happened to me. A Thank-fullness was setting in that I had become ill. I would have never been having so much fun, and learning so much that I had dreamed about in earlier years if I was well. Thank god that he opened my eyes to other programs available for my future career.

I started to become familiar to the patients, like their friend. The parents enjoyed my company too, since March '08 when I met them. I started getting lessons which led to strong friendships with Toby and other employees. Over the summer, I got worse and worse, but I stayed active with the hippo and would sleep over Friday nights at my instructor's house so I could help Fridays and Saturdays. Then as school started back and I determined I had Lyme, everything spiraled. I had a very busy life. We started finishing off the basement for my 3 brothers, and we had a big storage truck to empty and remove from our yard. I was feeling worse, and started homeschooling which was a large change. I also started visiting a mini horse farm every Sunday afternoon to play and help train the babies. This barn was closer to us than Bow(now Deerfield as the barn for riding changed), so I spent some time there and became very close to a cute little baby named miracle.

I started missing a lot of lessons within the past months, and the ones I have gone to I have not been able to stay long, since I am more tired and hurting worse. I still go though, and love spreading the word about how nice this program is. I have seen kids go from mute to talkative, from unstable to balanced, from distracted to listening well. I am now a close volunteer to the program. I try to help when I can, and this has given me a sense of strength, something to get better for, a light at the end of the tunnel.

If you want to check out the site, go to
You'll see Toby's page and it explains the difference of Therapeutic riding, and hippo therapy. Hippo is run by medical professionals and run for specific goals and qualities to be met, and Therapeutic Riding is leisure based, with less benefits from the therapy sessions.

Anyway, that's what keeps me going. I love fulfilling my dream, being with horses.