Sammy Hands as written by her mom, Tammy Hands
Sam has been in the Equine-Assisted Therapies of South Florida program since she was 4 years old – for almost 5 years now.
Therapeutic riding has improved Sam’s speech, fine motor, and gross motor skills tremendously. She was so proud to receive a blue ribbon in the 2010 Ride-a-thon Horse Show and was honored to carry the torch as a future Olympian for the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics.
Sam loves coming to the Equine-Assisted Therapies of South Florida barn every week. We are sure to get there early so that she can visit all the horses and socialize (and ask thousands of questions) with all the amazing Equine-Assisted Therapies of South Florida volunteers and staff members who go above and beyond to make Sam feel like she is a superstar! Molly is always there with a huge smile and big hugs to welcome Sam and make her feel so special.
Getting on Fred and giving him big kisses is one of the highlights of Sam’s time at the barn. She loves to take him on the sensory trail ride through the woods or ride in the beautiful covered arena and play all the fun games that her instructor Alison comes up with like Simon Says, Relay Races and basketball. And, the best is trotting on Fred and going really FAST!
Currently, Sam’s favorite horse is Fred – “He’s big and fast and so sweet!”, she says. She says, “I love Fred! I’m going to dream about him and me riding him. He’s a good boy!” Her other favorites have been Chico (the first horse she ever rode at Equine-Assisted Therapies of South Florida who is now in Heaven) and Jose (who she rode for years until Jose decided it would be okay if Sam rode his friend Fred).
Therapeutic Riding has helped Sam in so many ways. It is speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy all in one. She gains OT skills (fine motor skills) by using the reins and using small objects and rings etc. in games on the horses. She gains PT (gross motor skills) by doing stretching and strengthening exercises like sit-ups on the horse, doing around the world, and trotting. It improves her range of motion, her posture, and her muscle tone. The movement of the horse provides beneficial sensory input. Her balance has improved so much. And, her speech has improved too.
Her first word was on a horse. Hearing her say so loud and clear….”Walk on” is like music to our ears. We are so thankful for her riding instructor, Alison, who is exceptional. Her knowledge of horses, her enthusiasm, her expertise in the special needs field, and her genuine love of what she does is beautiful to witness.
Bringing Sam to Equine-Assisted Therapies of South Florida is the best therapy that doesn’t seem like therapy at all! To see how proud and confident Sam is riding is awesome. It increases her self-esteem and self-confidence. To see how happy it makes her and the special bond that is created with the horse is truly priceless! It is something that she is so proud to tell her family and friends and carries over into her school work – she writes about riding and draws pictures of her riding her horse.
Equine-Assisted Therapies of South Florida means everything to us! As parents, we feel so blessed by Equine-Assisted Therapies of South Florida to be able to provide this opportunity for our daughter that provides so much for her physically and emotionally that we would not be able to do if it weren’t for the generous donations for scholarships from people in the community and all of the hard-working, dedicated Equine-Assisted Therapies of South Florida staff and exceptional, loving volunteers who donate their time and give so much of their heart to this program. Everyone is so wonderful from Mandy to Megan to Molly to Alison to Sam’s leader Jessica and Crystal to Mickey to Kathleen and just everyone! And for Sam, Equine-Assisted Therapies of South Florida means one of the happiest hours of her week where she gets to truly feel the magic of this incredible program!
It has far exceeded our expectations as an alternative form of therapy on so many levels!
Our dream for Sam is to lead a happy, healthy and fulfilling life and to go after her dreams and know that she can do anything that she wants to do in life…the sky is the limit! She has a very special heart that touches people in amazing ways. We are so proud to be her parents!
When we ask Sam about her dreams for her future… she says (and changes them up all the time) ”I want to be a horseback rider, a veterinarian, a doctor, a mounted police officer, a truck driver or an excavator operator, or maybe a teacher or maybe ALL of these things!”