My friend, Pat Schmoll, is a dressage trainer in Ocala, Florida. She is not a psychologist. However, the relationship she has facilitated between this lovely girl, Hannah and a pony named Little Sage Brush is moving. Little Sagebrush and a few other horses at Pat’s farm have given Hannah experiences that have, and will, change the quality of her life.
Pat sent me an email a few months ago that says it all: (*Italics are mine):
“I have had a young girl taking lessons here (once a week or so), for a year. She is Chinese, 11, adopted 4 years ago. (Prior to being adopted she lived in an orphanage, and several foster homes in China where she was not treated well, because she was “sickly.”)
She was shy and timid, and her family thought this would give her some confidence. All summer she was here 4-5 days a week. She learned to canter and jump small jumps. Her confidence is amazing, and her physical ability/strength has improved. When she started she would hide behind her mother, jump and screech when a horse sneezed etc. She also has a very serious heart condition, has undergone open heart surgery and brain surgery since being adopted-which she explains to me in the most matter of fact way when with me at UF Vet clinic one day,” Miss Pat, you know I had open heart surgery right? Oh, and my brain too.” “Yeah, my mom says I will need a new heart when I am older”.
Well now she is practically running my barn (just kidding), but she has confidence enough for 3 people, is assertive (but very polite) with horses and people-she does everything here, drives the tractor, rides 3 horses, loves dressage: ”Miss Pat, I know everyone thinks walking is boring, but ya know, I really like it because I can feel so much.”
I had a pony come in who is 6, green, and cute. 14.0 hands. I bought him with Hannah in mind. In 6 months or so he absolutely loves going in a frame, is friendly and sweet, and has a small spook sometimes, which she can handle. She named him “Little Sage Brush”-why? I have no idea, but she likes the name.
She is quite something. I want her to come to CADI when she is ready, she’s quite a girl. She has shared a few stories of her time in the orphan age in Beijing, very touching.”
I asked Pat a few more questions over email and she wrote about Hannah: “She is the brightest of lights, lol. I said to her mom, ‘Is it weird that I like to hang out with an 11 year old?’ She laughed and said they feel the same way!”
Hannah’s parents brought Hannah to Pat’s barn hoping that it would help her balance the difficult experiences from her past. Along with Hannah’s loving family, Pat Schmoll’s generous spirit and the horses she has brought into Hannah’s life, they have created a world for Hannah to develop faith in herself and others, and so be able to express the bright light that she is.
The first horse who Pat introduced Hannah to was Blue. She progressed from lunge line to showing him in a two phase a couple of months ago. He’s a sweet, but sometimes cranky horse who challenged her to be clear about what she wanted him to do. Pat wrote: “Blue is 26 and is our retired jumper. He has given Hannah the confidence to be clear about what she wants (him to do) and to get it.” This confidence now extends to many aspects of her life.
A friend of mine told me that she was once struck by how the Sage Brush grows through the deep snow in Colorado. Hannah might not know about the life force in that plant, but she certainly shares it.
I think there are a lot of trainers who are creating similar experiences for their students all the time. I imagine that many don’t know the impact they are having. But Hannah was/is just the type of light that Pat needed to see how much she gives to others. (Including dogs, birds, cats…..etc. – Including one of the ponies I have at Bear Spot who was rescued by Pat many years ago.)