I overcame my fear.
Kameriah, 9, timidly backed away from the stall where Chrissy, a horse with a coat that looks like Oreo cookie ice cream, patiently stood. She’d never been close to a horse and wanted no part of Chrissy. “I’m scared,” she said.
So the therapeutic horsemanship volunteers went to work. They got Kameriah to walk next to Chrissy -- albeit six feet away -- but watched her retreat once again when they asked if she wanted to brush the horse. Tears welled in Kameriah’s eyes. This was supposed to be her first horse-riding experience. It wasn’t happening.
Then came another suggestion: Would she want to help her friend, Jaliyah, comb her horse, Dillon? “OK,” she said softly. Side-by-side, Jaliyah and Kameriah gently brushed the mane of the horse. Then a volunteer brought in a spunky reinforcement, Willie the Shetland pony, whose smallish, less-intimidating stature was just the right size for Kameriah. She brushed the pony and even braided his mane – big steps for a little girl who just minutes earlier looked ready to leave. She took an even bigger step 15 minutes later – over Chrissy’s back and onto the saddle.
“I did it!” she said.
Potentially life-changing moments like this one are why Footpath Foundation partners with other nonprofit organizations to provide an equestrian therapy program for kids, some of whom have never been around horses before. For these kids, their initial reactions can be a grimace in response to the smell of a barn or fear of a large farm animal. However, as they spend time in the equestrian therapy program, you can see their minds opening.
These kids are able to finally put their guards down and enjoy the moment – in many cases, a vast difference from their stress-filled home lives.
At Footpath Foundation, we have found this program to be particularly valuable to girls living in foster care. They learn about relationship building, trust and communication by learning how to care for and interact with horses.
The equestrian therapy program includes partnerships with Camp Cheerful, the Achievement Centers for Children and Ohio Guidestone.
Our partners and sponsors make it possible to deliver experiences to kids who otherwise would never get the opportunity to interact and build a bond with a horse.