Story by Shelby Keller
When triplets Forest, Sky and Laurel first started riding at Shining Hope Farms, they were two year olds who were not yet potty-trained, speaking or responding to anyone. They were often squirmy and inattentive and Forest did not like leaving the house for anything. All of that changed when they began hippotherapy with us.
The trio first rode with us for a year and a half, until they were four years old. Recently, Laurel and Forest were able to join us again as spunky seven year olds and the benefits they gain now are just as great as when they started riding.
When Laurel first got on one of our horses, she started singing! Her first words were murmured on the back of a horse, and she began potty-training shortly after.
She was able to connect with her horse before she connected with a lot of other people, even some of her family members. Both Laurel and Forest love their horses and riding brings beaming smiles to their faces. As for Forest not wanting to leave the house, his mom Tifini says Forest now gets excited about coming to Shining Hope Farms: “Having somewhere once a week where he wants to go is a huge deal.”
Riding allows Forest and Laurel to focus, relax and connect more with the movements of the horse and their own bodies. The differences in their attitudes before and after riding are noticeable almost immediately and often last into the rest of the week. After riding, they are able to have smoother conversations, more eye contact and be more present with the world around them.
These gains from hippotherapy have been the most striking results the family has seen compared to all the other therapies the children are in. As an added bonus, it’s one therapy that the kids actually enjoy and look forward to, according to Tifini.
Tifini hopes that through building connections with their horses, her kids will grow to have a relationship with animals and nature. She would love for them to develop skills that may allow them to pick up work on a farm or with animals in some capacity in the future. But most of all, she hopes horseback riding is something they will enjoy the rest of their lives. We hope so, too!
Would you consider giving to our #GiveShiningHope campaign for #GivingTuesdayCLT so that children like Forest and Laurel can continue to experience the amazing benefits that Shining Hope Farms has to offer? Donations are accepted now through Giving Tuesday on November 28.