Some of Our Stories
"I started riding at Equus when I was 10 years old. It felt so freeing and kind of magical to be up there on top of a horse. I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which mainly affects my legs. It means that my leg muscles have more spasticity and tightness and are weaker than the average person's. . . . I continue to ride and I do see marked progress in my walking compared to when I don't ride. The stretching I receive from being on horseback is hard to find elsewhere, not to mention the fun factor!"
--Marianne Somes, Equus Rider
"I started to ride with the Equus program when I was seven years old. . . . It took me about three weeks of going and walking the horse around and petting the horse. Then on the fourth week I decided to get on the horse and ride, and I loved it so much. . . .Now I ride with my friend Tim and my friend Joey. . . . I am learning how to canter and then maybe jump.
"This summer was the first time I did a horse show away from the program. . . . I did a wonderful job over at Karry Brothers' farm and I'm hoping to be able to canter and jump by next year so I can compete in that division. . . .
"If it wasn't for the Equus program I wouldn't have the self-confidence I have in myself that I didn't have before. I would like to thank my instructor, Sandy, and Janet and Jenna and Mark and all the volunteers for everything they have done for me over the years. It has given me a feeling of control over my life and the feeling that I could do anything I put my mind to. It's a wonderful program and I hope it continues on for years to come."
--Artie Mongeau, Equus Rider
Owen was diagnosed at birth with a rare condition called Smith Magenis Syndrome. Common features of this genetic disorder include low muscle tone, developmental delay, and skeletal anomalies. His parents were told he most likely would never be mobile, but by age 5 he could walk with a walker and lower leg braces. Then his family heard about hippotherapy, and it has changed Owen’s life.
After his third session of hippotherapy, Owen started walking a few steps on his own--no walker, no braces. Melissa, his mother, states, “Hippotherapy is a natural wonder, and we are thankful for what it has done for our son.”
--Carrie Minahan, Equus Instructor
The Story of Mark and Christopher Paquette:
Twenty-three years ago, three-year-old Christopher Paquette enrolled in the Equus Therapeutic Riding program. This cheerful, rosy-faced boy with Down syndrome developed affection for the horses from the first time he rode and won a special place in the hearts of the instructors, volunteers, and other riders.
Christopher progressed beautifully with his riding, and by the age of ten was an independent rider at the walk and trot. Rarely did he miss a week of riding thanks to his dad, Mark, who faithfully brought him each week and volunteered for the class. As Christopher was approaching his teenage years, he qualified for the World Games in Special Olympics. To participate in the World Games, Christopher had to train with the state team north of Boston. Mark agreed to a six-month training commitment. This required driving to north of Boston three Saturdays per month for a lesson with the three other members of the equestrian team. This meant being on the road at 6 am on Saturday and not getting home until late afternoon. In addition Christopher continued to train with Equus Therapeutic once or twice a week.
Mark cheerfully and willingly supported his son, and during the spring of 1997, Christopher went to the World Games at High Hopes in Connecticut. Everyone was bursting with pride when Christopher won a gold medal in the obstacle/trail class at the World Games! This truly was a special moment for Christopher, his family, and Equus. Upon Christopher's return from the World Games, he went to Boston for a repair of a heart valve. Unfortunately, complications ensued, and only months after Christopher had stood on the podium receiving his gold medal, Mark called to tell us that Christopher's heart had stopped.
Following Christopher's death, Mark's volunteer efforts to the riding program increased. Mark often says how important the therapeutic riding program was to his son during his short life, and that he wants to return the favor as Equus had helped his son so much. He says one smile a night from a rider makes it worthwhile.
Mark is not only an outstanding leader and sidewalker, but an advocate for therapeutic riding. He is there for the riders, supporting, encouraging, always cheerful, energetic, competent, and reliable. He truly enjoys helping and is a role model for other volunteers and for riders. Additionally he is a strong supporter of the instructors and the overall program.
Mark established a scholarship program in his son's memory that allows the Adams-Cheshire special needs children to have several sessions of therapeutic riding each year. This program has allowed Equus to provide the benefits of therapeutic riding to more than 50 children during the past 8 years. Additionally, Mark is very active in fund-raising for Equus, helping with the Ride-a-Thon, Special Olympics, tag sales, and shows.
In 2002, the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA)
named Mark as its National Outstanding Volunteer.
In 2003, Mark became a board member for Equus Therapeutic. He's always willing to pick up or drop off another volunteer, and has actively recruited many volunteers for the program. Mark has attended volunteer training sessions and is qualified as a coach for Special Olympics. Mark's work as a volunteer demonstrates his contribution to the goals of the Equus program. He has given unselfishly of his time and talents to the riders and the program needs.
It is only because of volunteers who believe in the program that Equus continues to provide the benefits of therapeutic horseback riding to our special children and adults.