JoAnne Fromme, mother of Emily Fromme, 11, a rider at Horsin' Around, answers this week's questions:
Q: What is your name and job status?
A: JoAnne Fromme, Bryan County Schools
Q: How are you involved with Horsin’ Around?
A: My daughter, Emily, is a rider at Horsin’ Around. She is 11 years old and attends Richmond Hill Middle School. She was diagnosed with arthrogryposis at birth, which is the congenital fixation of a joint in an extended or flexed position, which reduces mobility. Emily has limited range of motion in her arms and legs, which limits her from the activities that kids her age do. We were so lucky when we found someone who told us about Horsin’ Around. I thought that something like this might give her the opportunity to do some kind of physical activity. We applied to Horsin’ Around hoping we would be selected and, sure enough, Emily was invited to become a rider!
Q: How did you find out about Horsin’ Around and the services they provide?
A: I found out about Horsin Around back in 2009 from a lady I met at Richmond Hill United Methodist Church. Her name was Susan, and she was a volunteer for Horsin’ Around at the time.
Q: How long has your child been using the services of Horsin’ Around?
A: Emily has been riding with Horsin’ Around since fall of 2009. She was 6 years old when she started.
Q: Have you seen any changes in your child since she began using the services provided?
A: The changes we have seen in Emily has been astonishing. The core strength that she has developed over the period she has been riding has made all the difference in her life. She used to trip and stumble quite frequently, but now she has balance and has become far stronger than we ever hoped possible. She has developed a level of confidence in her mannerisms and speaking that have impressed not only us, but entire crowds as well! Last year, Emily was invited to the annual Allee Shriners formal ball as a guest. She was asked to speak to a crowd of hundreds of Shriners, and she absolutely worked that crowd. She was so confident and witty that the master of ceremonies told the audience, “Folks I must tell you, this was not scripted!” All to a tremendous applause. The confidence she has developed will continue to grow as she gets older.
Q: What can you tell us about your experience in working with the staff/volunteers?
A: The volunteers are like family. They are all dedicated to the riders and their needs. They are not paid; they are here because they want to be. They have a passion, and Horsin’ Around would not exist without them. They all work hard to keep this program running. The volunteers that work at Horsin’ Around are the finest people one could ever get to know. Their kindness and charity are truly an inspiration to the parents of young children with disabilities. In truth, they are angels.
Q: Had you tried other forms of therapy before, and did you see change using those?
A: Emily received physical therapy at the home when she was younger. A home setting is very comfortable, but with Horsin’ Around, she is outside with other children to interact with. She is able to bond with the horses and become part of an environment that is positive and cheerful. All the children there find themselves without the thought of their disabilities. They all accept each other as equals. Horsin’ Around is a therapeutic method that the children truly love. Since the riders find themselves having so much fun, they don’t even realize that therapy is actually happening! And that is a wonderful thing!
Q: What has been the greatest blessing you’ve received since partnering with Horsin’ Around?
A: The greatest blessing is seeing the progress that Emily has made since she started. She has had opportunities that I never could have imagined. In 2012, she went to the Special Olympics and won two gold medals, and we are planning on going again this year! We have made many wonderful friendships. And it is truly a blessing when I see my child up on that horse with a great big smile on her face. Horsin’ Around is our “happy place,” and I can’t imagine not having them in our lives.
Q: If you could encourage parents facing similar struggles to give this form of therapy a try, what would you tell them?
A: At Horsin’ Around, you are not only receiving therapy, but you are making friendships. All of your worries seem to fade away. The environment of the farm, the horses, the chickens, all seem to cohabitate with each other. The natural setting of Horsin’ Around is peaceful and relaxing. On the farm, the animals and children make wonderful bonds. Children learn that animals are more than just animals. They become close to the horses, creating friendships. When a child first learns to give praise to an animal, that animal’s response is so positive, the horse’s eyes light up. They focus on the interaction that a child has noticed their being, and the affection between horse and child becomes mutual. After time, when a child who has developed a bond with a horse arrives at the stable, you will see the horse begin to become excited as if saying, “My kid is here! It’s time to ride!”