Saturday, September 1, 2012

Jacob’s Fund :: Special Olympics :: In the Show Ring and Behind the Scenes, Featuring Maya

 Multiple medalist, Maya, sporting a huge smile

You already know your donations to Jacob’s Fund help children with disabilities master basic skills like walking and talking.  Along with the new abilities, you’re also giving hope and opening the door to big dreams.

All children dream of being a champion, with all the accolades and awards that entails.  And the show ring at the Equestrian Special Olympics was the stage for that dream to come true for the dozen McKenna Farms riders who found themselves there this year. 

McKenna Farms, one of the larger and more advanced groups competing, created a buzz as the riders, each in four to five classes, performed beautifully and garnered medals.

Working behind the scenes during the long, hot days, fifteen volunteers kept the horses clean, well fed, hydrated, and happy.  They were by the side of each athlete, ready with reassurance and comfort when nerves threatened to overwhelm the riders, and making sure everyone was at the ring on time.

    Maya and her amazing volunteer, Jamie, 
who is also her clinical therapist at McKenna Farms.

Special needs children work hard, and so do their parents.  Sometimes parents need a break, and when counties provide chaperones, accommodations, and host events for their children on a weekend, often parents take the weekend off.  

McKenna Farms parents went above and beyond expectations, though, accompanying their kids, being there for them, cheering them on, and being their biggest supporter in encouraging their success.  And they were beside the medals podium to give their child a hug as they stepped off.

Just like the riders, the horses sometimes feel nervous and pressured in the spotlight.  Maya learned this first-hand on the big weekend.  Her mount, Pocket Full of Sunshine (shortened to Pocket for brevity), is a Percheron/Thoroughbred cross.  He gave a stunning performance with another rider on opening day in the dressage event, which was held in the open-air covered arena.  

When the program moved indoors to an enclosed arena, Pocket became uncomfortable.  He was nervous and did not want to stand still during his first class with Maya.  

Maya has been riding for only a few months, but she handled the massive 16.3 draft horse with such poise and confidence that the judge for the event came over to her and complemented her on her solid performance with a horse that was obviously uncomfortable in his new surroundings.

Maya’s excellent handling of the situation is even more impressive knowing that she has struggled with confidence throughout her life and is very uncomfortable in the spotlight.

Pocket’s skittishness meant that Maya would need to find a new mount for the balance of her events.  Before doing so, though, she visited Pocket’s stall for a heart-to-heart about his nervous performance.  She was concerned that he wouldn’t like her anymore if she rode someone else for her other classes.  They talked it out, and she realized he would understand.  (Back home at McKenna Farms a few days later, she rode him in a class.)

 Maya's heart-to-heart with Pocket

The following day Maya rode Aka-San (also called Red), a horse she’d only ridden once, months earlier.  She brought home a silver medal for that working trail class, and continued to perform like the champion she is, winning both a bronze and yes, a gold medal for her weekend’s work!

Kristen Moreland of McKenna Farms commented on Maya and her progress.  “A couple of months ago there is no way this girl would’ve not only kept it together in the ring while her horse acted up, but she also would not have switched horses to an unknown and been able to stay focused enough to get through the course!  It’s amazing what some confidence and the opportunity to succeed can do for a young girl!”

Indeed, Kristen, indeed.

With your support, other kids can receive needed therapy and gain the skills and confidence Maya has.  The Red Thread Promise is now supporting three boys at McKenna Farms:  Cameron, Landon, and Brandon. If you’d like to make a donation toward their hippotherapy and therapeutic riding, you can do so via check or PayPal (upper right in the sidebar).

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