|Harper-Lynn Easter Morning 2014|
We're standing outside the fence of the indoor arena at McKenna Farms, watching as Harper-Lynn, Tara's 2-1/2-year-old daughter, gives a command for her horse to stop and starts using the horse-shaped whistle her therapist, Rachel, has just handed her.
Harper-Lynn is smiling and talking with Rachel in the bumble-bee voice of a very young child. And Harper-Lynn is little—the smallest helmet is too big for her, so she's wearing a Queen Elsa Frozen hat under it.
Four months ago, Harper-Lynn began hippotherapy, after nearly a year of frightening, disheartening events. At eighteen months, her vocabulary included one hundred words and phrases. Then, suddenly, something happened. Within three months, her vocabulary dwindled until she could only say Momma and ball; she lost muscle tone and began falling down, and she began having aggression and sensory issues.
As we watch her ride, it seems almost impossible that we’re talking about the same child. She’s composed, sitting upright, carrying out the therapy tasks Rachel gives her.
At the Frog-Sorting Station on Jacob's Trail
“But Spirit, her horse, wouldn’t move unless she gave commands: Stop! Go!” says Rachel.
And so she gave the command, and took off, on her horse and in her speech.
Now, Tara says, her favorite subject of conversation is Spirit. She’s always asking, “When can I ride Spirit again?”
Rachel reports that Harper-Lynn has made gains in language and communication, as well as social skills. “The horse is a big draw for her. Her strength and endurance have improved. During therapy, in order to reach the toys we use, she has to reach beyond midline, get the toy, then correct to midline. She’s doing this on the horse using her core muscles, not her arms.”
| In the indoor arena, Harper Lynn wears her Frozen |
hat under her helmet (even the smallest helmet is too big for her)
but she solves the problem with great fashion sense.
Tara’s summation of her daughter’s improvement is less clinical, but just as clear. “People who know us, people at our church, say the change is miraculous. They cry when they see what she is able to do now.”
As she says this, there are tears in her eyes, and mine, tears of joy. Hers for the little girl dismounting from her horse near where we stand. Mine for Jacob Noah Beachy, my grandson, who began hippotherapy here in 2006 and talked about his horse, too, and whose spirit lives on in the lives of little ones like Harper-Lynn through the scholarships we provide in his memory.
“I want more children to have this opportunity,” says Tara.
So do we, Tara. So do our supporters.
It’s through the generosity of people like you that we are able to change the lives of children like Harper-Lynn. Thank you.
~Glenna Fisher, Jacob's Fund Director