Since March of 2016, we have diligently worked every day to bring a vision in our mind’s and heart’s eye to LIFE for all to see and partake. This is a labor of love and there are so many individuals that have joined with us to work, sweat, walk, laugh and love.
We said we wanted to provide an activity center with Love and Grace and that means for everyone. We focused on all the help and love that we would share with the special kids and people that come.
God blessed us with our very first student! He was a little on the young side, but (and this is how God works) we jumped! The very first time Dad brought him out, we bubbled over with enthusiasm. He is a bright spot full of energy and joy. He is all boy and very interested in everything at the barn, the water, the dogs, the grass, the dirt, but not our sweet horse, Lilly. He loved playing in the water, so we just let him play and get used to Lilly being around. Now, Lilly was amazing! She let this ball of energy go around her, put a Lego on her, go underneath her. She was so patient with him.
Well, now it is time to get a helmet on and get on the horse. Our little student SCREAMED at this helmet. He DID NOT want to wear this and with good reason. He had to wear a cranial helmet for months as an infant! What?!? We have to wear a helmet on for safety. Welcome to our first trial. We worked and worked, little by little, piece by piece and FINALLY got the helmet on him.
Now we can move on to riding, NOT. Our student did not want to get on Lilly. Anywhere but on Lilly. Remember, this is our first student challenge. It was not like this in our mind. Now what do we do? We worked to get toys that he could use in the water and teach animal names. We then got colored cones to teach color and introduce pattern. These were great ideas for us to implement to work alongside the additional therapies that our little fireball was doing. We were willing to try anything to get him on our sweet Lilly.
In a few short weeks, weeks that were apprehensive, frustrating and just downright scary for us and for the parents, THEN GOD!
God put the perfect instructor and volunteers to walk hand in hand with our little student and he now wears the helmet with pride! In addition, Lilly, now has the best friend in our enthusiastic student. She waited and waited and our volunteers worked each week and little by little, we watched our student grow. In just a few weeks, we saw our first student grow and riding Lilly has allowed him to connect colors and patterns and now numbers. He is talking more. He is confident and get his helmet himself and steps right up to Lilly to get on that saddle. He is moving better from using his core and balancing on Lilly.
What has not been mentioned is that our first student has a parent that is an Occupational Therapist at the Veterans Administration. Yeah, no pressure here. He will tell you that he had his doubts. It was early Saturday mornings and he drove 40 miles to hear his son cry for a half hour, and paid for it!
But GOD! Now, joy abounds and we work to keep up with our star student. He works hard and we are moving on to numbers. He has matured, learned vocabulary, moving stronger and gaining independence in a safe, fun environment. His dad, the therapist, has seen strides utilizing equine activities and has moved from skeptic to 100% Committed Believer. According to our students’ father, “by the 4th week, I was questioning if this was as good as it seemed, after that week and seeing my son accomplish what he has through his relationship with Lilly, the horse, we are as committed as they come and have extended his riding activity to open the door for continued independence.”
As a therapy, it is cost effective and provides rest for the parent, outdoor fun for the students and even the volunteers grow. One of our first volunteers in on the Asperger Spectrum and after sharing that with our Dad, the Therapist, he could have been knocked over with a feather! There are no outward signs and she has grown. This girl is a story all by herself.
We, at Natchez Trace Stables Foundation, are so fortunate to work to provide a place for special needs children and circumstances to be challenged, independent and PLAY! Yet we see miracles take place each time. In volunteers, parents, volunteers and this touches all involved.
1 Corinthians 2:9 New King James Version (NKJV)
9 But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.