Working with the Mentally Challengedby Michael Lanphear, No. Easton, MAThe Massachusetts Miniature Horse Exhibition Group (MMHEG) is a collection of volunteers who spend time with their horses at schools for the mentally challenged. They use the horses as physical and emotional therapists for disabled children. I heard about this organization through a friend and decided to volunteer some of my free time. At first, my intention was to complete my community service hours, which were required at my school. However, I have completed more than enough community hours and I am still planning trips to different functions with my horses.The reason I am still volunteering is because of an experience which totally changed my feelings toward those with handicaps. One hot Saturday in July, I was at a fair with two of my horses. I was giving small speeches and demonstrations. Suddenly, a handicapped boy, around six years of age, came running up to the horses with his arms flaring and his mouth foaming. He stopped in his tracks, an awed expression masking his face. I waited with anticipa-tion to see what he was going to do next, when my youngest horse gently nuzzled up to the boy. An expression of joy covered his face. He started rambling gibberish and stroking the horse slowly and affectionately.This does not seem like a miraculous event to many, but after learning that he had very little hand control and almost never spoke, I felt that my horse's presence helped in some significant way. Since then, I have witnessed other handicapped children accomplish things that their therapists thought impossible. It seems that anything is possible in therapy when animals are used. Another example occurred at my friend's farm, when a wheelchair-bound child who could not flex her fingers was able to pick up a brush and gently stroke the horse.Volunteering leaves me with a feeling of completion. I believe that everyone should take an active part in helping better his or her community. fl
Reviewed in 1998
Reviewed in 1998
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.