Hard-working and wise equines are the heart of a successful therapeutic horsemanship center,” wrote the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH, Intl.) in announcing that the smallest member of Loudoun Therapeutic Riding’s herd of therapy horses, Gnomeo, is PATH Intl. 2020 Equine of the Year. This prestigious international prize is awarded annually to the best equine working in therapeutic horsemanship as demonstrated by their impact on their riders.
As the mother of one of Gnomeo’s young riders says “In Chiana’s first 3 years, she had 20 plus medical diagnoses and at least 15 specialists. Chiana has Noonan Syndrome along with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Sensory Processing Disorder, and multiple communication challenges. She latched onto Gnomeo like he was her secret friend – an animal she could ride! Nothing could have been better motivation to work on therapy. He moved. She could go on adventures. He was smallest like her, and she didn’t notice how riding was working her body, her voice, and her thoughts. She has been riding Gnomeo for more than 5 years now. Over time, her voice has gotten bolder, her core has gotten stronger, her coordination has improved, her confidence has grown. She surely would have been lost without Gnomeo and the confidence he has allowed her.”
Heather Payne, one of Loudoun Therapeutic Riding’s Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructors (CTRI) who teaches children with physical, intellectual and emotional challenges, says this about Gnomeo, “With this pony, I have witnessed first words, independence and pure joy. I have such faith in this pony that I will let him go at liberty with a young student who needs something a little different in their lesson plan. I have such trust in this pony knowing he will take care of his riders. Whether they are a hippotherapy client who can’t yet sit up or a riding student who is striving for independence, he will ensure they get what they need.”
Gnomeo is a 25-years-old Welsh mix gelding and stands 12.1 hands. He is a seasoned horse show veteran and was donated to Loudoun Therapeutic Riding by Sharon Bryce. In addition to his therapeutic riding responsibilities, this year during the pandemic, he will be reaching out to Loudoun students through “Pony Tales” in which he will partner with a human to read stories virtually. A limited number of spots to videotape or read virtually to Gnomeo or other members of the herd are available. LCPS teachers and literacy organizations may reach out via “Contact Us” on LTR’s website www.ltrf.org to inquire.