In my last post, I told you about “the question” that every girl seems to ask at some part in her life: “Can we get a horse?” I also discussed Rookie Parent Mistake #1: assuming she’d get over it.
Well, she didn’t get over it, and so when we received our next assignment to Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, we knew there would be plenty of places to test the seriousness of my oldest daughter’s horse dreams.
After arriving back in country and getting to Texas, we visited a few of those barns, finally deciding to volunteer at Whispers of Hope Horse Farm. “Whispers” is a non-profit organization that provides therapeutic riding at no cost to physically and mentally challenged youth. Mary Elizabeth Pearce, with the help of her devoted and ever-patient husband Louis have run this ministry for decades, and said they would be happy to have some more help on the farm.
Mary Elizabeth, like other hippotherapists, has found that horses can help kids meet the the challenges of everything from Down Syndrome to autism to spina bifida. The riders experience physical, emotional, and mental rewards. According to her, kids with impaired mobility benefit from the gentle and rhythmic movements of their bodies with the horse, as well as increased balance, muscle control and strength. Other kids with learning or mental disabilities are motivated by riding to increase concentration, patience and discipline. Beyond this, the kids form relationships with both the horses and volunteers, which Mary Elizabeth says can help improve interpersonal relationships when psychological and emotional disabilities are present.
Mary Elizabeth has up to 30 horses at any one time to run this program. 30 horses is a lot of mouths. I’m not super smart on animals, but I do know that every mouth is just the opening of a tube that has to end somewhere. And though I’m not a biologist, I did major in mathematics, and using those higher-level skills I can tell you that 30 horses results in the conversion of approximately 600 pounds of feed and 500 gallons of water into 1,200 pounds of manure PER DAY.
My best hope in the end of horse enfatuation lay in a muck rake, a shed full of empty plastic trash bins, and half a ton of horse poop. Just to make sure I didn’t have to do this all over again in a few years, I also volunteered her younger sister to help out.
That was Parent Rookie mistake #2.