You know the term ‘Fun-Sized?’ That’s our little Welsh pony, River! At 12.2 hands tall, he is our smallest riding horse, but there is a whole lot of personality in that tiny palomino body. Just ask anyone that partners with him during group lessons at Agape South. Our lead group programming instructor, Linda Hazzard, loves including River in lessons. She says, “You know how much I love that little pony! He is a great teacher, and when you do it right, he joins right up and is your best bud.”
One such community partner is Magdalene House, a non-profit in Morgan County that provides support to homeless women so they can get back on their feet. A group of 12 women recently came to Agape for 12 weeks to work on improving self-image, being a leader, speaking positively about themselves, and creating healthy boundaries. Each week they partnered with River, as well as some of our other horses, and each week River was their conundrum. His busy, bright, social personality paired with his sensitivity to their cues made it difficult for them to figure out how to communicate effectively with River. They would try to move River through an obstacle course by gathering in front of him and River would respond by standing perfectly still, staring back at them. Then they would try using props like pool noodles to encourage River to move, and River would respond by continuing to stand still, or simply wandering away. Over and over again, each week.
Finally, on the last day of the 12th week, these women arrived with positive, upbeat spirits. They utilized all the skills they had learned in the previous 11 weeks; they worked together, they communicated clearly, they set appropriate boundaries, they had a goal in mind and tools to reach that goal. And wouldn’t you know it? River suddenly was ready and willing to do everything they asked! He joined up with them and walked beside them without any ropes or halter attached; he moved effortlessly through an obstacle course littered with props such as ground poles, tarps, and barrels with the group beside him; he did it a second time once the women had altered the course to symbolically reflect their idea of a perfect day. Every woman in that arena that day understood that River had not changed one bit. They had simply grown and changed their outlook on life.
I had no idea I could do these things, and if it weren’t for the horses I still wouldn’t know.KimParticipant with Magdalene House
Their positivity and clear communication yielded clear and genuine results, and they were amazed and rewarded by it! River had taken them out of their comfort zone, helped them try new approaches to life, and gave them new tools that could help them on their journey.