TestimonialsFrom a family that recently attended a camp at Nicola's:
John and I just wanted to say thank you for such a wonderful camp last week. It was such a pleasure for us to see Violet grow in confidence day by day. We have also seen some remarkable developments since we returned home. Violet will now play dress up with me and allow John and I to compliment her, she can even tolerate us saying she looks pretty!!!!!!! It's still a struggle outside the home, but it is such a massive step in the right direction. Her sentences are now longer and more complex, something her speech and language therapist has been working on for years! Also, Violet is engaging much more in normal conversation, asking us questions and actually being interested in our answers!
We feel very strongly that these wonderful steps forward for Violet are as a result of the expertise and dedication of everyone at camp. John and I were so grateful for the time and effort that everyone put in with Violet, especially when her phobias and anxieties do not always make her easy to be around. Being an autism parent can be a bit lonely, so it was such a gift for us to spend time with like minded people and not be judged as the useless parent!
I would love to bring Violet to you for more riding, she absolutely loved being out on the trail and also being up there with you and I and of course the "poo sweeping"!! We're off on holiday for a week on Saturday, but I'll get in touch when we get back. I'd love to get riding again too, the camp made me realise how much I'd missed it.
We hope all's well with you and all the horses.
With our deepest gratitude and very best wishes,
Flora, John and Violet
and here a follow up email:
'Actually, the positive progress just keeps flooding in at the moment. Violet allowed John to help her get dressed for the first time in years today!!! Previously her thinking has been too rigid for her to be able to tolerate John and I sharing her care, her brain had hard wired the idea that mummy does those tasks and nothing we could do or say would change that. So to see her being flexible enough in her thinking to allow John in for the first time was just wonderful to see.
Not only that but at teatime she managed to eat a cake with cracked icing!!!! Violet has an intense need for perfection in all things and for years before she was verbal would scream inexplicably at mealtimes. Only when she could talk could she tell us how impossible it is for her to eat things if they have jagged edges, or imperfect icing etc. It took a little persuasion today, but she did it, for the first time ever!!!!
I am sincerely convinced that these wonderful developments are as a result of the camp. The two examples above are issues we've been struggling with for years and which have caused our family, and especially Violet, a lot of heartache. To see her allowing John to help and eating a cracked mini roll will seem so insignificant to anyone who doesn't understand autism, but to us, and especially to Violet, it has been a truly great gift. So another huge thank you to you and your wonderful horses.'
Hi Nicola. Always wanted to write and thank you for all you've done for us. I will forward some photos separately - they are a great illustration of how happy Sasha is when he is with you, your volunteers and the horses. You can also see how much he's grown )))) - he is taller than you!!! Feel free to use them for your website.
My son Sasha is 14 years old young man with Autism, ADHD, sensory processing and modulation disorder and severe learning difficulties. He has always been interested in horses and other animals but was too anxious and too impulsive to approach them. Sasha used to go to another center for riding when he was little but as he got taller and stronger I felt very anxious about him riding a horse with a very little understanding of the animal behaviour and no control or relationship with the horse and the instructors (as they tended to change each session). In the end I had to stop as feared for the safety of my child as well as people walking on a side – one impulsive kick of anxious child (he was extremely anxious on the horse as it was very overwhelming for him) could lead to a bad outcome.
In Feb 2014 one of my friends from the USA liked Horseboy page on Facebook. I looked and searched and have suddenly discovered that there is a centre, Equine Learning, a 45 min drive from me – Stratford upon Avon area of the UK. Our very first session was very surreal – it had no rigid structure, but it felt like some magic forest. Our family of 4 was taken to the arena, we got to know the horse (good old Bertie), understand their behaviour, got them to follow us – more like horse whisperers. My both children and ourselves were astonished to learn about horses behaviour and what drives it. To top it all up boys got to lay on the horse’s back, feel their body solid and warm. We were converted!! Ever since that time Sunday 11am is my sanctuary hour!!! It was great to see how the bond between Sasha and Nicola had gone stronger, how he relates to Bertie and now Mr Foley, how confident he is in his western saddle. Sasha is no longer scared of any animals, happy to touch them and be around them. In almost 2 years he had grown about 20 cm in height and gain so much more in body awareness, proprioception, less sensitive to noises and different textures, more expressive and, the most important, is proud of himself. From standing next to the horse for 5 min and sitting on top for 2 min to riding independent for 30 to 45 min around the beautiful ground of Wootton Park near Henley-in-Arden. Sasha knows his Sundays and is looking forward to them. On the days that we have to cancel, he talks about Nicky, horses and clearly misses them. It was great to join in for a few days of camp last summer. It is all about respecting each child, moving at their pace and comfort level.
Nicola has got a great understanding of autism and parenting of a special child. Nicola and volunteers are always very friendly and helpful. Equine Learning/ Horse Boy is not about rigid routine and schedules, it is about being with your child as a family and listening to inner selves / expressing yourselves/ learning to relax and enjoy peace as a family with the help of a wonderful big giants.
For once my son and our family has freedom and accepted as we are without a need to conform or intervene. Thank you Nicola, we are looking forward to many years of riding together.