The summer of 2020 was like no other. The coronavirus made a huge impression on our lives. But I don’t need to tell you this. You know it only too well. But did you know that it also made a significant difference in the lives of the children who benefit from the incredible equine-guided therapy at Little Hooves & Big Hearts (LHBH)? Suddenly they could no longer go to Little Hooves. That meant they could not be with their favorite miniature horse—the miniature horse who is their friend, the mini who always seems to understand them and knows how they’re feeling. It meant they missed their friends Tammy, Amy, and Peggy who are always there to help them with their activities. Not being able to go to Little Hooves meant that they missed the minis, and the minis missed them.
So, at LHBH we knew we needed to find a way to maintain the bond between the children and the minis. So now we are having virtual meetings with our clients and minis using FaceTime, Messenger, and Zoom.
This is how it works. The client is scheduled for a one-hour session every two weeks. During this session, the client will choose a miniature horse and communicate with the Little Hooves Team through computer screen, tablet, or phone.
A virtual session looks like this. The client is asked questions about handling the horse: how to put the halter on the mini, how to hold the lead rope, and how the facilitator should be walking with the horse. These are steps that the child would normally be taking when on-site. But now they are giving us instructions and correcting any errors they see on the screen they are viewing. Once these steps are complete, the child may choose to go on the trail, finding items in nature or treasures that have been placed on the trail. They are treasure hunting for items that belong in nature and those that don’t belong.
There are a variety of other activities the child may choose such as having his/her horse painted. In this session the child picks the paint colors and decides what subject he wants: flowers, hearts, dinosaurs, a flaming planet, or man climbing Mt. Everest. A list of other activities we provide may be found on our website.
Through virtual sessions, Little Hooves is encouraging eye contact, focused attention, self-care, coping skills, decision-making, discussion of emotions, problem solving, and gross and fine motor skill activities. These sessions are empowering the child to make choices and be in charge. They provide a sense of value, security, and confidence-building. As a session is closing, a new appointment is being scheduled. At this time, the child can discuss and decide what he/she wants to do for that session. The child’s anticipation and excitement are infectious.
Virtual sessions provide another opportunity for Little Hooves to be invited into clients’ homes and into their world. They participate in a new way through show-and-tell on a variety of topics. We are learning that our clients are actually opening up and sharing more about themselves. Parents are present and active in the sessions and are encouraged by the results they see taking place.
When clients are not in virtual sessions they are staying in touch by phone and receiving activities through the mail from Little Hooves—letters from a mini, coloring sheets, word puzzles, printed hooves with a poem from their favorite mini, photo keychains, and activities to complete at home and then share at their next session.
The goal of all this is to continue with the equine-guided therapy that has made such a difference in the lives of these children. Every bit of correspondence the children receive tells them that Little Hooves is thinking of them. It is very important that the bond that has been developed between each child and Little Hooves & Big Hearts not be broken.
We invite you to visit our website, www.littlehooves.org, call us at 520-896-2820, or email us at [email protected] Little Hooves & Big Hearts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The children served by Little Hooves are children with special needs, and there is no cost to their families.