August 31, 2009

Horses and Alex - coincidence?

When we relocated to this area three years ago I went on a quest to find new and different activities to excite my kids. They were sad to leave the place where they had been born, all their friends and the comfort of familiar surroundings. I was also a bit concerned about Alex as her ability to transition is not always good.

Happy to report I underestimated my kids - they love it here. Being close to a major ski resort was excitement enough. Silly me - seems I worry too much.

On one of my trips here, to look for a house and schools for the kids, I sat next to a women on the plane. When I told her we were relocating and I was concerned about finding services for my daughter with down syndrome, she volunteered there was a riding program in our area for kids with special needs. I call that coincidence number one.

Coincidence number two - I applied for a job and the contact at the company was on the Board of the local therapeutic riding center. When she read my resume which included stints on the Board of NADS (National Association for Down Syndrome) she told me about the center. Coincidence number three - my future boss had purchased a table with his wife at the annual benefit for the riding center. He graciously invited John and I as his guests - I am sure it was a part of the interview process - and we accepted. Coincidence number four - the benefit was the next night and we were free - that is actually the norm - so perhaps I am stretching here!

And that is how we became part of the WindWalkers family.

WindWalkers is an"equine assisted therapeutic riding center" located on a beautiful ranch in the Roaring Fork Valley. The benefit was well attended and we were able to meet the staff, the families and a number of friends of the program. I knew right away that this was an organization that had talented, passionate people devoted to helping children with special needs as well as their families. I was also hired for the job - Alex always seems to bring me good luck. Perhaps she should pick my lottery numbers.....

Alex started riding a couple of weeks later - and is now in her fourth year. I am not a horse person and I must admit I was not sure how this was going to work - but the people in the program were so welcoming and cared so much about the kids I went with it. I am now a passionate believer in equine assisted therapy and the President to the Board.

It is very difficult to explain the relationship that a horse and a child develop. As trite as it sounds, it is almost like the horse and the child become one. The horse understands the child and the power of the horse is channelled to the child. There are many studies about how horses understand and can help children with special needs to heal and I know this is true. I have noticed this in particular with children with autism, and children that can not walk. I have seen kids who do not talk, squeal with delight while on the back of a horse. I have seen kids in wheel chairs get on a horse and feel the freedom of movement. It is awe inspiring.

Alex was scared to ride at first, the horses can be huge to a child. But the very talented instructors worked with her and within three weeks she was mounting and speaking to the horse. Her muscle tone and core strength have improved and her confidence around all animals is much better. She has also learned to be responsible for the horse, this includes grooming and scooping poop! And there is just so much more....

I know that a series of coincidences occurred that got Alex and I to WindWalkers. I know there is a reason for this and I know that our lives have improved dramatically because of this. But as I think about the many coincidences that have happened in the last 16 years -I do not think I believe in coincidences - rather I am becoming convinced - this is our karma.

I sure am hoping that our karma stays positive this fall - Alex had told me she wants to learn how to jump!! Churchhill Downs here we come!

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