Two Wednesday’s ago I dropped Tommy of at STAR and ran off to do an errand. Upon my return I am stunned, and unfortunately cameraless, seeing Tommy riding off lead! For the past 5 years (maybe 6) that Tommy has participated in the STAR program he has ridden on lead. That means one, sometimes two, people walk beside the horse holding a tether and they have equal, if not more, control of the horse as the rider. On that Wednesday, Tommy’s sidewalker was near by Tommy was in complete control of the horse.
Last Wednesday I stayed the whole class. Tommy mounted his horse and rode into the ring before anyone else. I mean before anyone else! He took his horse into the ring and brought it to a complete stop. The next student came out with two volunteers helping him. One of the volunteers asked Tommy to start around the ring and he confidently made his horse walk. He rode the entire class without a volunteer or staff member anywhere near! It was incredible. I had goosebumps!
This past Saturday, Tommy rode at the annual Star horse show at Roane State Community College in Rockwood, TN (Harmond). In the Intermediate Futures he rode against 2 other rides and took first place. See his performance below.
Tommy was thrilled. This was the first time he had ever ridden in a show without an assistant. The horse he rode, Dandy, was skiddish and would have reacted badly to applause. Tommy rode with confidence and poise.
He tied for first place against 4 other riders in the Intermediate Obstacle English/Western. See his performance below.
Tommy also rode Intermediate Western Equitation against 2 other riders and received first place!
The folks at Shangri-la Therapuetic Academy of Riding have seen Tommy grow from an out of control child, who spoke harshly with insults to the volunteers and who was almost removed from the program when his actions and increasing weight threatened harm to the animals, grow into a calm, controlled young adult with a sense of humor and the ability to chat correctly and politely with the staff and volunteers. He has gained their confidence enough to earn the privilege of solo riding. Lynn Petr, founder of STAR, prior to the show, but in ring, gave Tommy a pep talk and asked him if he was up to this. She reminded him that not only was he in charge of his safety and the safety of the horse but for all others that were in the ring. Tommy responded non-chalantly, "No problem." After the show multiple staff members, volunteers, and parents remarked at Tommy’s achievement! Thank you Star! Tommy did great!