Tori - TEC's Small but Mighty Change Agent for our Riders
Tori and TEC crossed paths in 2008 when she was part of a herd dispersal sale in Vandalia, Ohio. As a trail riding horse, she gave rides to people with little or no horse experience. TEC instructors Mara Vergon and Danielle Countryman went to see if any of the horses had what it takes to be a therapeutic riding horse. Two horses stood out as excellent candidates, Tori and Garth. Seven years later, Tori has proven time and time again that she’s “got what it takes”. The Arabian/Welsh pony cross has served as the “go to” mount for our smallest riders.
Tori has improved body strength, increased attention spans, and built
confidence while making the work fun for her riders. Reyna Price, Elysa’s
mother said, “I call her ‘True Tori’ because with Elysa I’ve seen her patience
and insight to see Elysa for who she is.
Hayden rides Tori on Saturday mornings. She patiently stands while Hayden, in
his wheelchair works hard to brush her. Hayden loves to get out of his
wheelchair and get moving on Tori.
You’ll hear him giggle from sheer joy as she trots around the arena.
Tori’s unique personality and special gifts shine through as TEC’s smallest but very mighty “change agent”. Visit www.tecfarm.org to meet the rest of our horses and learn how to become a rider or volunteer.
Both Elysa and Tori are ‘truly’ beautiful, rambunctious, and prissy.”
Beth Drollinger observes “Tori is all business during lesson time but her true personality really shows through when she is off duty. I love that girl.” Tori is the first one to use her foot to kick the stall door when it’s time to go outside as if to say “Hurry it up, I want to go out and eat my grass!”
Joan’s Story … A Family Working Together
Seeing 78-year old Joan sit high in the saddle is still a pleasant surprise for her family. In 2013, after being rushed to the hospital with a septic shock infection that overtook her entire body, she was left completely immobile. The doctors told Joan it would take 18 months to recover the mobility and strength she had lost. Then just two weeks after being home Joan fell down a flight of stairs and had to have a knee replacement.
“She was so weak and having such a hard time with her fine motor skills. We were worried about her,” says her daughter Louann, a nurse at Lakeland. “I heard about TEC during the Lakeland Learning Expo, and suggested to mom that she try riding.”
Joan’s husband Phil, a former horse owner, encouraged her as well and soon Joan began riding at TEC.
Joan showed improvement in core strength, balance, and coordination both on and off the horse within just 8 weeks. Her husband attends every lesson to sidewalk with her, and her granddaughter, Hanna, leads ‘her’ horse, Szanghi. Phil has become a dedicated fan of TEC through his volunteerism during Joan’s lessons. “TEC does so much for the safety of the rider, even in a very weak condition they can get off and on the horse,” explains Phil. “Since Joan has started, she’s able to sit up better in the saddle and lift her leg over on the mount and dismount with more strength.”In just 16 weeks, Joan noticed immense changes in her body. “I realized I could stand up better and longer, and my leg and arm strength are improving. It has helped with my strength, my mobility, and I get to spend time with my granddaughter,” Joan smiles.
“It is nice to have my mom back,” says Louann. “She is standing more upright each day, her gate is steadier and she is more aware mentally. She also has her sense of humor back; and dad doesn't have to worry about her when he is not there.”
Joan, Phil, and Hannah soon will be joined by Hannah’s other grandmother, Donna, who just started riding at TEC this month. If you or any age family member with a disability, would like to keep your body and your mind active through riding at TEC, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (269) 429-0671 or visit www.tecfarm.org.
You've Got a Friend ... Congrats to the students and staff of Berrien RESA's Lighthouse Education Center, this year's recipient of the Berrien County Board of Health's Friend of Public Health award, and to our rider Matt C.
A Family Affair … Samuel and Niki, a TEC son and mother who ride together!
By: Andrew Mollison, a TEC father and husband
Our family learned about Therapeutic Equestrian Center (TEC) through the Knights of Columbus when a fellow Knight had asked me to help with a few fundraisers. After hearing about TEC, we knew immediately that TEC could benefit our youngest son Samuel.
Samuel has Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy, as a result his muscle development is delayed and he will probably never catch up to other children of his age. This affects his ability to walk, run, jump, and play like other kids. It also affects his speech, fine motor skills, and even toilet training. As soon as he was old enough to ride we signed him up at TEC with a recommendation from his physical therapist.
Samuel began riding horses at TEC when he was three. He is now five. This form of therapy has been critical to strengthening his core muscle group. While on the back of a horse he is forced to sit upright or he will topple off, he also has to stiffen his neck muscles when the horse is trotting to keep his head steady. Samuel’s arm strength and neck muscles are all much stronger. It has even helped his speech because the instructor makes him shout out commands to the horse and respond to her from across the riding arena. As he does more work in this area he keeps getting more command of his speech.
He just recently began to run and jump. We believe he would not be able to do this without the strength and balance improvements that TEC has provided.
Samuel’s mom, Niki, also has Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy. And although not as severe, her condition unfortunately tends to get worse with age. Niki began riding the horses at TEC in Samuel’s class last year. She has found that it really works out her core muscles, inner thighs, arms, and neck in ways that traditional exercises do not.
Niki’s involvement in the program helps to dispel the notion that this therapy is limited to children with disabilities. Hopefully, as she continues to ride it will encourage other adults with similar muscle conditions to enter the program and benefit from this form of therapy.