Stephanie Ashe wrote today's essay - we are very grateful that she evesdrops ;-)
Now, I don’t make a habit of eavesdropping. Or, more accurately, I don’t make a habit of letting people know that I’m eavesdropping. That changed a few months ago at Peet’s in Half Moon Bay.
I was having a tough morning. My 11-year-old daughter, Gilly, has anxiety. Not the run-of-the-mill, butterflies in the stomach, average nervousness kind of anxiety. Gilly has clinically diagnosed, overwhelming, mind-numbing anxiety. We have battled this anxiety for years with therapy and tutoring to help her keep up in school. But, over the past several months, Gilly’s anxiety has increased and prevented her from going to school. She has been in the hospital, gone through intensive therapy and has been moved to a few different schools as we tried to find the right fit. Sadly, due to her anxiety, Gilly also stopped doing many of the activities that she enjoyed the most, including riding horses, something that she has loved since she was five.
That morning at Peet’s, I was holding my breath. Gilly had just started a new, small and very hands-on school and I was nervously trying to get some work done at the local Peet’s.
I happened to sit next to Joell Dunlap, who was in the middle of talking to someone about her ranch, Square Peg. As I tried to write emails, I kept getting pulled into listening to Joell talk about her foundation that takes therapy riding to another level. Joell’s enthusiasm for her work with special needs children, her description of her “castaway” horses who need the kids as much as the kids need them, and the intense passion with which she talked about the supportive, peaceful and calm environment where kids and horses thrive, was too tempting for me to keep quiet.
I interrupted Joell and her friend, mid-conversation, and asked if this place could possibly be real. I think Joell could sense the desperation in my voice and she very kindly spent the next 20 minutes talking to me about Square Peg, listening to my worries about Gilly and encouraging me to visit the ranch.
For our first visit to Square Peg, Gilly and I planned to observe for an hour, at the most. Gilly was nervous and made me promise that we would leave the minute she started to feel uncomfortable. We stayed five hours.
We met each horse, groomed several, cleaned out a few stalls, met and fed the goats, pet the dogs and got to know the wonderful Square Peg instructors. And, under Joell’s kind tutelage, Gilly tacked up and rode Roxie, Square Peg’s trusty pony.
Needless to say, Gilly and I have spent a lot of time at Square Peg since our first visit. We have gotten to know Rachel and Becca, two of the kindest and smartest “horse girls” I have ever met. Gilly has lessons with Rachel and Becca, she often helps at the ranch, and the instructors have endless patience with all of my horse personality and anatomy questions. We can’t seem to get enough of the place!
Beyond riding, Rachel goes out of her way to check in on Gilly to see how she is doing after riding, with school, etc. Rachel has found yoga classes for us, told us where to get the best milkshakes on the coast and has even given Gilly some of her old riding equipment.
Rachel and Joell have also introduced me to other parents who have children with special needs. Their stories, understanding and encouragement have been a big help to me during this time.
Gilly is doing so well. She likes her new school and gets so much comfort and support at Square Peg. She is calmer, stronger and sleeps better. I know that we still have a long way to go with helping Gilly work through her anxiety. But, I have faith that Gilly will forge her way past this tough time and learn how to lead a happy and productive life. And, I know that Square Peg will be a big part of that effort.
Thank you, Joell, Rachel, Becca, Roxie, Panzur, Ace, Patti, Tucker, Molly, Wasabi and all of the other amazing souls at Square Peg!
Sponsoring a Square Peg horse is the Holiday gift that makes miracles happen every day! Today's featured horse is Roxy - the pony who brought real smiles to this family. Below is the monthly breakdown to sponsor Roxy's care: Occupancy: $250 (rent, maintenance, insurance) Staff: $150 (includes care, training, grooming and exercise) Feed: $135 Farrier: $21 Vet: $52 Other: $41 (Dentistry, chiropractic, supplies, supplements) $7,788 annually $649 per month