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Musings, insight, and pro tips

Jessie & These Tiny Miracles

Sophia Proler

I was reminded today that my problems are small. 

When a big, ugly, horrible, sad thing flattens you or someone you love, you can’t help but reflect. 

We never know how many or how few days we may actually get to use or abuse in a life. How can you fill each day with meaning? What does that meaning even look like? 

Several years ago, like many college students at the time, I was very caught up in my little world. What friends did I need to see while back for the summer? Was my major going to lead to a good job after I graduated? How much fun could I pack into the break before returning to school?

Despite these thoughts, texting constantly, and having serious FOMO, I still knew that I needed to get some quality horse time in, so I signed up to be a lead walker and facilitator at SIRE. 

SIRE helps individuals with special needs and disabilities through therapeutic horsemanship.

My petty problems dissolved each time I drove onto the property, and I found them returning much more slowly by the end of the summer. I soon cared far less if I was excluded from somebody's party or didn't win the internship. The saintly horses, the unbreakable will of the riders, and the incredible support of their parents and guardians became my life force. 

Some showed up in wheelchairs, with blank stares, and with significant mental challenges. Some clients were completely silent. Some clients cried in pain as they were lifted onto their horse, and some spent much of their time on the horse yelling or flailing. Yet others seemed to wake up as soon as they sat in the saddle, and somehow at the end of the lesson, each rider stood a little taller. They smiled more easily. They acknowledged the volunteers and patted their mount.

These horses were working tiny miracles.

My favorite rider came every Wednesday and Thursday for her 45 minute lesson. She was silent, but her face glowed with enthusiasm every time she was helped onto her horse and took the reins. Jessie was in her late teens, non-verbal, and mostly non-responsive. She had a lifetime of challenges ahead of her, but on a horse, she was finally in control. She put her heels down, she placed balls in buckets, and steered her steed over poles and through gates. This was her opportunity to be free.

And her father was on the bleachers every time. He sat in his suit and tie, watching with rapt attention and cheering Jessie on each time she passed him.

“You look great up there!”
“You’re doing wonderfully; I love you!”

Sometimes she would seem to smile, sometimes she seemed not to hear him. But his support was unfailing. 

He knew better than any of us how hard Jessie's life (and his own) would continue to be. He knew that the rest of his life would be dedicated to helping her in and out of the bathtub, making sure she ate enough, protecting her from bullying, and teaching her all he could about the world. But he didn't spend those precious 45 minutes checking his phone or zoning out. He was right there. 

These horses gave us all a reason to be present and grateful for the moments we have. Their legacy is clear. Now I just need to get going on mine.

Click here if you would like to donate to SIRE

Wherever you are, Jessie, I hope you’re still riding.