Check out Sue Watt’s profile in the Trust For Public Land’s Magazine. Very cool!
Contributed by Hayley Barrett
“Goodnight, Finn… Goodnight, Bucky… Goodnight, Sky…”
Heather began therapeutic riding at age five and started riding at Windrush two years ago, when she was seven. Many of her early lessons were on reliable, easy-to-steer Bucky. As Heather progressed, she needed a horse that offered fresh challenges.
Finn, the handsome Connemara newcomer to both Windrush and therapeutic riding, is her current partner. “She’s a very calm and gentle rider, perfect for a horse that is learning,” states her instructor, Vanessa. “Finn’s good for Heather, and Heather’s good for Finn.”
“A common characteristic of Down Syndrome is a lack of muscle tone. Riding and working with the horses does a lot to strengthen Heather’s core and improve her tone,” explains her mother, Brenda. “For example, when she leads Finn back to the barn after her lesson, she has to practice walking heel-to-toe and taking big, strong steps to keep up with him. It’s good for her confidence, too. She knows she’s in charge.”
Ever heard of the phrase “every cloud has a silver lining”? Well, that is a motto you need to ride by when riding the “bad boy of Windrush.” Although he doesn’t sport a leather jacket and a motorcycle daily, you can tell who he is because he is the smallest pony here. Spike came to us through great friends of Windrush. He was owned by the Eddy family, long-time Windrush volunteers and supporters. Both of the Eddy daughters, Dale and Eliza, grew up riding Spike.
Clocking in at a towering 13.1, Spike does not lack in personality. What is the way to this bad boy’s heart? Nilla wafers! When he was at GMHA camp with one of the Eddy daughters, he would open up some of the kids’ tack trunks to get at them!
There is no lack of talent here. Spike has excelled at many competitions and camps in dressage. Spike is also a very talented jumper, unless, so I have been told, the jump has hay bales under it, Barbie dolls on it, or pink and white poles. In his defense, bad boys aren’t supposed to like Barbie dolls!
So what’s the silver lining in all of this, you ask? Spike produces good, confident, talented riders without even trying. Spike would just brush his shoulder off if asked, but the proof is clear. It takes determination, heart, and a good sport to master this pony, but once you gain Spike’s respect, you will be a better horse person for it!
Contributed by Hayley Barrett
Her rider, 11-year-old Nicholas Eaton, is less patient. He eagerly urges his mother to finish adjusting his helmet so he can start his therapeutic riding lesson. Ready at last, he gets on Wanda and centers himself in the saddle. With a quick, “Walk on!” and “Bye, Mom!” Nicholas joins his fellow students for a surprise trail ride around the big paddock.
“He used to need me to stay with him.” Nicholas’ mom, Raileen, says with a smile. “He started hippotherapy at Windrush when he was only 2 ½. Now he participates in the Special Olympics—He won a bronze and silver medal—and he represented Windrush Farm at the Groton House Horse Trials.
“Nicholas is my most enthusiastic student,” attests his instructor, Tina. One of his side-walkers, Tammy, agrees. “He’s full of energy. He enjoys his whole lesson, from start to finish, especially when we trot. We play games like Simon Says that build his verbal skills. He has a great sense of humor. He laughs and shouts with glee. It doesn’t bother Wanda a bit.”
Born with an extremely rare genetic condition, Costello Syndrome, Nicholas’ health must be continuously and carefully monitored by an array of specialists. “Like other kids with this syndrome, he looks pretty healthy, but he faces many medical challenges,” Raileen explains, “It isn’t easy for him, but he’s a happy-go-lucky kid. Riding helps his endurance, strength, and balance. He loves it.”