I started volunteering at Victory Reins about 4 or 5 years ago. On my first with Ms. Sandy showed me around the barn, intorduced me to all of the animals, and briefly explain what they do. I came back to watch how the lessons were done. Ms. Sandy was standing there along with other parents. A horse walked up and stopped. A small child, about 3 or 4 years old was on the horse, and two side walkers were there, holding her up so she could ride. It may have been her 1st or 2nd time riding. She lifted up her little head and tap, tapped on the horn of the saddle with her small hand. Ms. Sandy looked at her, and then at her mom, who was standing with us with disbelief, and we all started to cry. She had never communicated like that before. This little girl just wanted to ride some more. Well, that was my first experience to see what Victory Reins was like, and I could not wait until the next time.
I mostly volunteer on Saturdays, and as I am walking into the barn I hear giggling, horses munching, I see cats running around, girls and boys tacking up the horses for the lessons. Some are cleaning stalls, some are taking horses outside. I hear “Hi Ms. Brenda, Hi Ms. Brenda!” and I feel at home. We all work together, help each other. We have so much fun together, and have one thing in common, the love of horses!!!
Ms. Sandy said “Do you want to back ride today?” and I said, “OK,” so I got up on a horse and she handed me a child, his muscles so tight and stiff , yet so eager to ride on this horse. I held this little body in my arms and took both of his small curled hands and wrapped them around each rein as I held on to them. I turned and looked him in the eyes, our helmets bumped, and I said “Are you ready to go for a ride?” I got the biggest smile, and I tap tapped the horn with his hand and said “Walk on,” As we started walking around the arena, slowly his little body started to relax. No more stiff, tight muscles, just riding to the rhythm of the horse. That made my day!!
The next time was a little boy, about 4 years old, who could not walk. He showed his parents how he could do his up-down, up-down, up-downs all around the arena. And a little girl, 5 years old, I was side walking with her and I looked her in the eyes, she looked at me and waited for several moments. I asked her to tap the horn , she took several moments more still looking at me, gave me the biggest giggle and tapped the horn. I was hoping a few moments more with her before she went back to her little world.
Once, there was a school field trip with several young children.Most of them were in wheelchairs. We brought out all of the animals to show them. As I was bring out Ollie, the mini horse, a little girl who did not talk was pointing her finger to the horse and then she put her finger on her lips. Her aide said to her “No, you cannot kiss that horse!” At that moment, Ollie walked over to the little girl and put his nose on her lip and she kissed him. She giggled and clapped her hands and she pointed again at Ollie, he gave her another kiss. I believe the communication between her and Ollie was very special. I could not turn off my tears.
Another little boy with very tight muscles sat up on a horse and was so eager to ride and please his parents, told me that he learned how to cluck-cluck to make his horse go! I said “Well show me!” He cluck-clucked and said "Walk on!" and Rasha started to walk. He was so proud, he had been practicing all week to show me.
A young man, very intelligent and very strong-willed, came for a lesson for the first time. His muscles were tight and his speech was difficult. He would not let go of the horn on the saddle, his fingers were turning purple and he was holding his breath. He was very scared. Well, we stopped and had a long talk. I tried to answer all of his questions regarding the horses, how they act and move, and I told him that these horses were not here to hurt him, that I was there right by his side, and that we would stop whenever he wanted. We moved around the arena at a slow walk, and his hands started to relax, his legs loosened up and I told him to pick up the reins, one in each hand, and “Yes, you can still hold on to the horn!” We continued around again. Well, this determined, strong minded man in just one season of riding took home TWO (2) GOLD MEDALS at the Special Olympics. Talk about tears of joy, and we were so proud of him. He now rides independently, with a bridle.
I have a special little friend. She may be taller than me soon, she is growing up so fast! We have been working together since I started volunteering. She is a chatterbox and we have lots of conversations while she rides. She has weak muscles in one of her arms and that hand, and has difficulty holding the reins and guiding her horse. Her posture, up-downs, two-point, and turns are all excellent. I am so proud of her, she is now riding at the end of the season all by herself, but of course I am not far way. I can’t wait to see her next riding season.
These are only a few of my experiences and stories here at Victory Reins, and each and every one of them is very special. I will continue to volunteer here because I believe I have touched so many lives here at Victory Reins and I know for sure they have touched mine.