Some of Our Stories
"I went to horseback riding because it's really fun and it teaches us to focus. I'm learning how to steer the horse myself, how to trot with the horse, and how to communicate with the horse so I know what it wants. Those are the reasons why I like horseback riding, and how I never want to stop doing it."
--Audrey Ann Krzanik, Equus rider
"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
". . . Before I started riding I was a very shy girl. Now I am easier to talk to. I love to chat but most of all I love to ride. My new favorite motto is 'Sometimes I ride to forget, but I never forget to ride.'"
--Emily Sroka, 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. . . . If it wasn't for the Equus program I wouldn't have the self-confidence I have in myself. . . . 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."
--Artie Mongeau, Equus Rider
The Story of Mark and Christopher Paquette
Mark Paquette, the president of the Equus board of directors, has been a mainstay of the Equus program for more than twenty-five years, ever since his son Christopher began riding at the age of three. A cheerful, rosy-faced boy with Down syndrome, Christopher loved 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. As Christopher was approaching his teenage years, he qualified for the World Games in Special Olympics. To participate, he had to train with the state team north of Boston. Mark agreed to a six-month training commitment and made the long drive three Saturdays a month. In addition Christopher continued to train with Equus Therapeutic once or twice a week.
At the spring 1997 World Games at High Hopes in Connecticut, Christopher won a gold medal in the obstacle/trail class! 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, he passed away.
Following Christopher's death, Mark's volunteer efforts increased. Mark often says how important Equus was to his son during his short life, and that he wants to return the favor. He says one smile a day 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 is a role model for other volunteers and a bastion of support for the instructors. Additionally, Mark is very active in fund-raising for Equus, helping with the Ride-a-Thon, Special Olympics, tag sales, and shows.
Mark has been especially instrumental in organizing the Equus summer program for children from the Adams-Cheshire special needs summer school This program has allowed Equus to provide the benefits of therapeutic riding to many children who otherwise would not be able to participate.
In 2002, the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA)--now PATH International--named Mark as its National Outstanding Volunteer.
In the fall of 2012, Mark shepherded Equus's move from Oakhollow Farm to its current home at Wedgewood Stable in Lanesboro, and he continues to serve the program in countless ways. No project seems too small to merit his attention, and none too large to daunt him.