Jonah started riding at Healing Reins a year ago this April. During this time, he was diagnosed with Autism in addition to a communication disorder.
I grew up horseback riding and was active in 4-H for many years. I have so many wonderful memories related to riding and being around animals, and I wanted Jonah to share in my childhood passion. But he had always been shy and fearful around animals, especially larger dogs. I was hoping consistent learning and working with a horse would help him overcome his fears and build confidence around animals.
At Healing Reins, gradually, Jonah did gain confidence. Now he is so excited every week to brush, walk, and ride his horse Smokey. We have a picture of Smokey on our weekly calendar so that Jonah knows which day of every week he gets to work with him. Jonah’s has been an amazing transformation that continues every week as he learns more.
Sara K., Jonah’s mom
As a volunteer at Healing Reins, I have witnessed so many remarkable moments with horses and their riders. I could write a story about each and every one of these amazing equines, but I want to single out one fellow who is dear to me. He is a black and white Paint named Smokey.
A group of young riders with Autism comes to Healing Reins weekly. Smokey’s rider didn’t want to put on a helmet and was screaming and fighting against his Teaching Assistant and Volunteer. After several minutes, I brought Smokey over to the rail where his rider was. Smokey put his head down low and nuzzled the crying boy. The boy immediately calmed down and started to pet Smokey on the nose. I led Smokey away, and the resistance to the helmet began again.
The Instructor came up with a plan: They would take the rider to the mounting ramp and I would lead Smokey to him. As the rider was crying and kicking, Smokey walked calmly up to him, the helmet was put on, and the rider was lifted onto Smokey’s back. The instant he mounted, he calmed down and began smiling and vocalizing. I felt as though I had witnessed a miracle!
The following week, we knew how to proceed. The minute the rider mounted, he calmed down and was content. Smokey never once balked or showed any sign of anxiety. He knows he has an important job to do and that is to take care of his little rider. Smokey is truly a champion!
Christine B., Volunteer
I love all of the Healing Reins horses, but after getting to know them I have to say that Smokey is an all-around good horse. He’s friendly and calm around all ages. Any level of rider can get on him and he responds accordingly. He also seems to be the big brother to all the others. And he, of course, is very impressive looking!
It’s one of my rider dreams to be able to ride Smokey.
Diana B., Volunteer
There are a couple of funny “quirks” with Smokey. First off, he would roll in the water with me on or off of him, it would make no matter!! When crossing a creek or up at Cultus, where we used to ride a lot, he would start by pawing and playing in the water then would start to drop and roll. If I was bareback, I’d just let him start then would jump off. No such deal with a nice saddle on him!
He also was known to take my phone off my belt, when available, and drop it in the dirt. A real trickster, that one.
Tom L. of Windermere Central Oregon Real Estate, Smokey’s Owner