I started volunteering at Little Bit for a community service project in 6th grade. I had already been riding horses for a couple years and was very intrigued by what they did for people with disabilities. In the Saturday class i volunteer in, I have watched certain riders grow over the years and their progress has been truly incredible. I have made so many new friends, volunteers and riders alike. It warms my heart to see these kids make such amazing progress, and to know I am directly involved with changing someone's life. Little Bit is such an amazing place, they are so friendly and are incredibly passionate about what they do. Miracles happen there every day, and it's such an amazing feeling to know you're a part of them.
Little Bit is such an amazing experience not only for the riders, but for the volunteers as well. When I came to Little Bit for the Spring Quarter of 2010, I didn't know that much about horses or people with disablilities, and I was nervous of what would happen on my first day. But when I didn't know how to do something, I asked for help and recieved a kind response from another, more experienced volunteer. And in my classes, the kids were so amazing and inspiring that I knew Little Bit was where I wanted to be volunteering. Some of the children I have worked with can stand up on a horse and do other fantastic things that I could never imagine myself doing. It's great that Little Bit is giving children and adults this great experience. Up there on the horse, it doesn't matter if you can't use your legs or if you have any other physical or mental limitation. Everyone is treated the same way and it is such an honor that I get to be apart of something as wonderful as this. Not only are the kids great, the staff and volunteers are amazing too. There is a welcoming environment and everyone is so nice. I hope to stay at Little Bit as a volunteer as long as I can before I go to college. Little Bit rules!!
I work two different classes a week. there are two girls in one of the classes that I have formed a special bond with. Both are non-verbal, and have various physical disabilities. One has rods running the length of her spine, supporting her overall posture and enabling her to be able to walk. When she first gets on the horse, she laughs with anticipation. Her body is rigid, though, and it's difficult getting her in the proper position. As the hour comes to a close, her legs ease, her tension releases, and she is calm. It's an amazing transition.
I was a volunteer and saw many examples of children and adults with disabilities whose entire demeanor and body language would change by just entering the facility. I have an adult son with Fragile X and often wondered how great it would have been if there was a facility like this available when he was younger. I enjoyed my time there and regret having to leave when I moved. They do great things daily and touch many lives.
Our son Max had been on the waiting list for services at Little Bit for just over two years. When I called to see where Max was at on the wait-list I found out from the fabulous Nicola Towers that they were just finalizing the Summer Camp sessions and we could get Max into one of those! I had a vague idea what hippotherapy was about. Watching Max’s first day at Little Bit (in Cowpokes Summer Camp) was a revelation. Max was 3-1/2 when he was diagnosed with autism at the UW CHDD (center for human development and disability). He was seven in the summer of 2009 when we got him enrolled in Cowpokes Camp so by then our family had been through more intake appointments, assessments and evaluations in more clinics than I can remember now. Most of these evaluations and services focus on deficits: “Max lacks sustained eye contact.” “Max has no peer play skills” “Max has extremely limited expressive speech”. What a depressing and limited picture! No mention of Max’s flexibility, his sense of humor, his kindness. No sense of him as an individual child at all. His first morning at Cowpokes Camp Max was a little overwhelmed: a group of unfamiliar, noisy kids, an unfamiliar place, unfamiliar routines and expectations. He sat at the table where everyone was gathering, just like he was supposed to but looked a little lost and disengaged. Ryanna Steele introduced us to the group. The young boy she’d introduced as Alexander came over to me on his crutches and said “What’s Max’s disease?” Wow. Not ‘how old is Max?’ or ‘Where does Max go to school?’ Or ‘Does Max have brothers or sisters?’ What is a kid’s world like when “What’s your disease?” is the important personal information to share. While I’m still trying to process this, Ryanna Steele comes back and says “I have a volunteer I’d like to pair up with Max: she’s a Special Ed. Teacher in Seattle and has several years experience working with autistic kids. She’ll be great at getting Max involved and helping him out when he needs direction.” Ryanna saw Max was struggling, saw a way to enable him to succeed and took action – all in less than five minutes! That… is Little Bit; finding what each kid needs to succeed and making that next thing happen. When we picked Max up at the end of his first full day we got a glowing report: Max is so comfortable on the horse! Max was very cuddly with Brooke! Max didn’t want to rope a bale of hay he went after the cat instead! It felt like everyone there was looking at Max with a mother’s eyes; they saw his charm, his willingness to please, his resilience. They also saw his stubbornness and his often short attention span – but they see those traits without judgment and didn’t use them as an excuse to lower their expectations. Max has been in regular one-on-one hippotherapy with Sara Niwah since October last year. In those nine months Max has spoken two words together (horse please). He’s learned to zip up his coat by himself, he can follow some two-step directions, he wrote his name for the first time in a birthday card for a classmate and he made his first friend. To have Max someplace like Little Bit where his strengths and gifts are recognized and where he is valued for what he has to offer when so much of the world wants to diminish him with a label, “autistic” “high functioning” “delayed”, means more to me than I can express in words. We are so grateful for each and every achievement but grateful most of all for the environment, the world Little Bit has created, a place where these achievements are possible, expected, aspired to. Our family is fortunate to be part of Little Bit’s world. And thanks to continued fundraising efforts and expansion into the new facility I hope it will be possible to share this beautiful world with other families.
My two children with autism have had amazing experiences here. They are afraid of animals and don't like trying new things, but they love riding their horse at Little Bit. An Occupational therapist helps them work on balance and coordination issues on horseback. My kids ride backwards, stand on the horse, and do other fancy tricks. At the same time, they work on conversation and social skills with the therapist and the volunteers. Little Bit offers a wonderful break from the usual autism therapies. It is so much fun and such a great confidence boost.
My eldest daughter, Catherine, has high functioning autism. She has always loved horses and attempted lessons at another [mainstream] facility, but that was very short-lived as Catherine quickly became very frustrated and depressed because she could not learn at the pace the instructor expected of her. Little Bit has been an entirely different experience for Catherine. She has been riding there for 8 years now and has loved every minute of it. Not only has it allowed her to ride horses as she had dreamed to do for years, but it has allowed her positive social interaction outside of school and it has led to an improved self-esteem. Furthermore, I am always amazed at what Catherine can accomplish when at Little Bit. She can do things there (like multi-task, sequence, follow multi-step instructions, etc.) that she just can't do anywhere else. Although, over the years she has improved at these skills outside of Little Bit, likely due to the work that she does there at the stables. Little Bit has been - and hopefully will be for years and years to come - a very important and joyful part of Catherine's life. We're blessed to have such a wonderful establishment in our community.
My son Garrett has been riding here for 6 years. He sits straight and is focused on the horse. He is in control and he enjoys that. He has learned how to tack the horse and care they receive in the barn. This year at the Pat Flynn horse show he dressed up as Moses and left him costume on for the BBQ. The staff and friends allowed him help with the cooking and passing out plates. He loved every moment to be included and part of such a supportive organization. Thanks to all.
I started out at Little Bit as a volunteer. I I knew that both of my boys are special needs and were on the wait list while I was a volunteer. My youngest is non verbal, but when we are at Little Bit, he becomes very "talkative"! My oldest is autistic along with having other issues. When he gets on the horse he is a different boy. He tries really hard to engage with others, he tries to sit up as straight as he does his best to do what he is asked to do. When my youngest had a devestating seizure that took away all of his motor control and cognitive function, Steve at Little Bit was the only therapist who would still see Hunter while he made very slow but steady gains to get back to his normal. We love being at Little Bit!
Little Bit is a great organization and a great place to volunteer. The volunteers are well organized and truly appreciated. My daughter also volunteers here as well. She loves working with the kids and horses.