Michael's First Words
Horseshoes of Hope serves many children and adults who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and one 12 year old young man came to our program without the ability to speak. He was highly functional in many areas of his life however his inability to speak caused his biggest challenge.
In the midst of his 3rd riding session, he was asked to tell his horse to ‘walk on’, as a command to have his horse move forward. Previously, his lesson instructor would always ask him for the command, hoping that he would respond, but eventually giving the command herself.
However, this time she didn’t give the command and Michael just sat there for a few moments. After a short time she said, “Michael, if you want your horse to start walking, you have to say ‘walk on’. Michael sat there showing frustration that his horse wasn’t moving forward. Shortly, Michael started rocking back and forth in the saddle in an effort to get his horse to move. But to no avail. Again, the instructor told Michael that he had to give the command, before his horse would start walking. After a moment, as Michael was rocking back and forth, he spoke the words “walk on” to his horse. It was an incredible moment for all who were fortunate enough to share this experience, including his mother who was watching from the observation room.
Most importantly, this experience for Michael opened up a part of him that had never been available. Michael made a connection with his horse that touched him in a special way. He began talking at home and at school, and has found a whole new world for himself. His life has improved in every aspect.
Hello! We are excited to inform you of a program in Morgan County for special needs children. Horseshoes of Hope (HoH) was established in 2010 by John Lambert to provide therapeutic horseback riding lessons for kids with disabilities.
Our son has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder called pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). At four years old, Eli has no verbal communication. Although he babbles, he has no words. He has overcome several developmental delays, but continues to lag far behind his peers in communication, cognitive, and social skills. HoH is a program that allows Eli to ride horses with confidence while receiving beneficial therapeutic services. When he is on “his” pony, Rascal, he forgets that he is learning. Being on the pony allows him to have fun, while teaching nonverbal ways of communicating and continuing to reinforce speech. It is also a great way for Eli to improve some of his physical delays such as strength and balance. He also benefits from socializing with the volunteers who assist with his lessons. Horseback riding is a sport that Eli is able to participate in despite his delays and struggles. His riding sessions are something we look forward to each week.
We are asking you to help support HoH in any way you can!
Randy and Mandy Laymon
Sydney came to Horseshoes of Hope at the age of 2 ½ with a primary diagnosis of Angelman Syndrome. One of her challenges was that she had no truck control and her parents were hoping that riding a horse would help build her core strength. Sydney was scheduled to come to the program twice a week, in hopes that multiple sessions might accelerate her development. At first, the two side-walkers that help to support her while she rode her horse, had to put all of their efforts into holding her upright. In order to make the experience as comfortable as possible for Sydney, while still having her core muscles exercised for as long as we could, we worked to achieve a riding time of about 15 minutes. We slowly kept adding a minute or two to the length of the ride and after several weeks Sydney had achieved our ultimate goal of 30 minutes of riding each session. After that milestone, we noticed that slowly but surely we needed to support her less and less. We were impressed at Sydney’s developing strength, as riding for that length of time for a capable adult with just a bareback pad and no saddle would be a challenging workout in itself. Her medical doctors and even her physical therapists started noticing that Sydney was stronger beyond their expectations using traditional treatment methods. Her parents are convinced it is attributable to her therapeutic riding lessons and are very encouraged by her progress. Over time, Sydney is now able to ride without the direct support of her two side-walkers! The smile on Sydney’s face when she sees her horse Taffy is a wonderful added reward to all who watch her ride!
A Veteran’s Journey - Justin
Serving US Veterans is an important part of the Mission of Horseshoes of Hope. So when we received a call from Autumn, a mental health counselor in Bloomington asking if we had an interest in meeting a young Veteran who was suffering severely from PTSD, we were more than will to try to help him. She explained that Justin had become an isolationist, as he was now living in a 12’ x 12’ room that he was renting, that had no windows. He had become so frightful of the outside world that he had lost his family, couldn’t hold a job, and was in such despair that suicide had become an option for him. He would not go outside of a 2 block perimeter that surrounded his current “home”, but fortunately the clinic his counselor represented was in that area. Unable to receive the services he needed from the VA, he walked into the clinic asking for help.
Autumn was having a difficult time with Justin, but had heard of the benefits of Equine Therapy in the treatment of PTSD. So she reached out to Horseshoes of Hope. Autumn wasn’t sure that she could accomplish getting Justin to our facility, but after some coaxing he agreed to come, and we set a time to meet.
When they arrived on that Friday morning, Justin walked in with a big smile and a strong handshake. However his true demeanor was anything but confident. We spent some time getting to know each other and about our program and then I took them out to meet some of the horses. I invited Justin to return so we could spend some one-on-one time with the horses and he agreed to come back the following Monday. Autumn was willing to give him another ride.
On Monday, Autumn dropped Justin off and asked him to call her in a couple of hours when he was ready. I took Justin out into the pasture and I introduced him to one of our horses, Apache, a well-trained and friendly quarter horse. After showing Justin how to put a halter on Apache, I handed him the lead rope and said “follow me”. After about 10 steps I looked back and Justin was just standing there. He said,’ you want me to do this?” I said, just start walking and he will walk with you”. Justin took the first step, and it turned out to be the first step in his recovery. Taking control of a 1000 pound horse can be very empowering and it was the first time that Justin had felt any confidence in himself in a very long time. We spent almost 4 hours together that first day. I began to teach Justin how to properly communicate with a horse, by trying to understand Apache’s needs and mentality. We tried to show Justin that you have more success by being respectful of Apache, rather than trying to force his own will upon him.
When Autumn returned she was excited to hear what had happened. Justin shared his experiences and we asked if he wanted to continue to come back on a regular basis. He said he did but didn’t have any working transportation. He said he hadn’t driven his car for almost 3 years and that he wasn’t sure it was running. Autumn was unable to bring him as she had other clients to see. When they left that day I really didn’t think I would ever see Justin again, but he said he would try to get back. Two days later Justin called and asked if he could come and work with Apache again. I didn’t ask any questions but welcomed him for the following Friday. At 10:00am, Justin pulled into the parking lot, after finding a way to get his car fixed. I was most amazed that he made the trek from Bloomington all by himself, and leaving his 2 block boundary.
Justin continued to work with Apache on a weekly basis, for 2 to 3 hours at a time. I didn’t start teaching him to ride until he had spent almost two months learning how to communicate and control Apache from the ground. Along the way, I would try to make the correlation between the respectful and proper communication that Justin showed to Apache, to how effective that would be when interacting with people.
Over the next 6 months, I was fortunate to witness the transformation of Justin finding himself again. He was able to regain his confidence by what he accomplished with Apache. He found a job that was interesting and fulfilling. He met a girl who caught his interest and who he respected, and in turn he was respected by her. He moved into an apartment and began living his life again. Additionally he reconciled with his father, who he had been estranged from for the last 5 years.
Justin’s connection with Apache is what helped turn his life around. Justin learned how to trust again, without the fear of being hurt or betrayed, by a horse who felt the same towards him.
To see a video of Justin and see more information about Horseshoes of Hope, please paste the following link into your browser. This video was produced when we were at our previous location:
Parker's Channel 8 Video - 2014
This video was produced by Channel 8 during the time we were relocating to our new home in Camby, just east of Mooresville, IN.
Please paste the following link:
Please read and view some of the testimonies, videos and accounts of the experiences of our riders,
who have been touched by the spirit of a horse!