In December, Burke County Big Sister Sharon McLaughlin took her Little Sister Gabby on an inspiring an educational activity with horses at Successful Strides! Here are Sharon’s reflections on the experience:
My Little Sister and I recently went to Successful Strides, where we got to work with horses. It was magical! Successful Strides partners horses with people for their own individual personal growth and learning. When we arrived we met owner, Beth Allen, who started the afternoon off by graciously showing us around the facility, which includes a field, arena, and a barn.
Out in the field were four beautiful horses, three brown and one white, named Nikki, Ella, Rio, and Good Mojo. We got to walk among them and pet each of them. Both Rio and Good Mojo were previously wild mustangs. But you wouldn’t necessarily guess it from their comportment today! Beth participated in an extreme mustang makeover competition, where horses are gentled and trained so that they can be adopted. This experience is what led her to the human/horse connection and trust. All sessions are on the ground rather than mounted—where the horses and people are free to move together.
Next, Beth took us to the arena where we got to work with two miniature horses named Pax and Finian. These horses, when full grown, will still be less than 32 inches tall! They were adorable! Gabby worked with Pax, who is white with blue eyes, and I worked with Finian, who is brown with brown eyes. We brushed them and Gabby braided Pax’s mane for an elegant designer look.
Beth set up an obstacle course for us, which included cones, hoops, a bridge, barrels, and a jump made with barrels and plastic pipes. We loved going through the obstacle course! We learned how to place a halter and lead line on them. Gabby also learned other techniques, including the use of a different control piece and cues to help the horse understand the human cues that we give them; that non-verbal language to communicate with an animal who doesn’t speak. Gabby is a quick study, and she easily learned how to bring Pax from a non-moving stance to moving around the arena. Now we both want miniature horses for Christmas!