Mia nervously extended her small hand towards the miniature horse in front of her. As her palm flattened gently against its soft nose, she smiled and looked at me. Her bright blue eyes shone with joy.
For children with disabilities, actions such as making friends and participating in activities can be difficult. As the teen leader of the Rolling Hills 4-H Miniature Horse project, I reach out to handicapped children in my community and encourage them to join this project. Once a child joins, I personally instruct them how to feed and care for the miniature horses. Not only does this provide disabled children with a fun activity, but my instruction also allows them to build confidence with the horses, which can translate into more confidence at school or when making friends.
I have taught many handicapped children, but Mia stands out to me. Short and blonde with bright blue eyes, she suffers from a disability that makes it difficult for her to talk. Due to this, she hardly spoke at the beginning of our training, and instead watched nervously as I explained basic horse care to her. Her mother told me that Mia behaved similarly at school: she was shy, and watched her classmates play instead of joining them.
In our training, I worked to turn Mia’s shyness into confidence. Although she was nervous, I had her feed and groom the miniature horses on her own, without my help. Her and I walked the horses around the ranch, and I encouraged her to smile at everyone she passed. Soon, I saw that my teaching was helping Mia transform. She became confident and competent enough to care for the horses without my help, and also smiled widely at people we met on our walks. Mia’s mother told me that in school, Mia had changed as well: she now played with her classmates instead of watching them, and had made new friends.
Through our training, I introduced Mia to an activity that she truly enjoyed. I also taught her to be confident when caring for the horses, which gave her the inner courage to make new friends. However, I did not just influence Mia: she inspired me as well, and showed me that any hardship can be overcome with dedication. Each time I see Mia, she hugs me tightly. Although she can not say it, her wide smile and bright eyes tell me, “Thank you.”