My Hillcrest Experience

My Hillcrest Experience: A Flower Unfolds

by Sue Enberg

In January 2014, I was blessed to become a volunteer at MTRA in Ocala. We have started spending our winters in Florida to escape cold Wisconsin weather. I heard about the program through your wonderful ambassador, Peggy Heier. I was greeted with such warmth by all at the program, but especially Laurie, Karen H., Gail and Jessie. I worked at each campus and loved it, but I found Hillcrest to be an amazing experience. Most of this was due to Jessie and a remarkable little girl.

EnbergStoryNov2013This little one is profoundly compromised. Wheelchair bound and so weak in her core that she has to have a strap across her chest to keep her upright in her chair.

Jessie cradles her gently in her arms and lifts her on the horse. Two of us would sidewalk with her to help her stay in the saddle. The first time I walked with her she would be curled up in a ball with her helmet on the horse’s mane. With a lot of encouragement, she would strain to hold herself upright.

The first time we got her upright for more than a second or two, we started counting out loud to encourage her. I remember that first time that we only got to a count of 10 before she folded up. She gave it all she had, but that was as long as she could do it that day. I helped with her for the next 10 weeks. Every Tuesday, we would count and she would try so hard. Every ride ended with the biggest smile on her face, because she had succeeded and done her very best.

The smile says it all...

The smile says it all…

The last day I worked with her, this little sweetheart stayed upright continuously for a count of 200! I spent my entire career in bedside nursing and have witnessed progress through therapy in many circumstances, but I was truly astounded by the progress that she made in what is actually a short period of time for therapy. If you want to see the smile of success she felt, just look at the little girl in the center of your brochure. That smile says it all for the need of the Hillcrest program. I plan to be back for three months every winter as a volunteer as long as you’ll have me, because of all the wonderful volunteers, employees, and riders in the Marion Therapeutic Riding Association. I hope you will be able to continue the program at Hillcrest, as well as Greenway, and I look forward to seeing you all in January.