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.”
A sweet, bubbly girl of nine, Heather is a Brownie Girl Scout and enjoys skiing. She especially delights in her time at Windrush Farm. Before each lesson, she plays with Gingersnap and the other model horses in the office. She loves to groom Finn and enjoys picking out his hooves. She rode Wanda in the Special Olympics last fall, winning two ribbons and two bronze medals. She’s hoping to come to the summer program this year.
“Last summer the kids painted colorful polka-dots on Skittles,” Brenda says with a smile. “Heather can’t wait to do that. She’s so happy here. There’s a sense of personal connection with the instructors, the volunteers, the students, and the parents. The people make the place.”