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.
Over the past 12 years I have had many students who have been involved with the program. Most of them have received physical therapy combined with hippo-therapy. This past year I was able to come out and see an ex-student. He left my district two years ago. To see him now......What fun! He was now able to hold onto the swing and when his hand came off, he put it back on independently! His sitting balance was improved, and when he was on the horse his upright body and his smile warmed my heart!! Thank you Little Bits for being available to so many people!!
My son is autistic. Little Bit has helped him to listen and focus. When JP is on his horse, his world becomes very focused on the task at hand. He and the horse become one. JP listens to his instructors and follows their directions. It’s an amazing thing to witness. The staff at Little Bit is fantastic. They are all interested in helping the clients experience a good time and succeed with their horses.
My daughter Kate was born with a rare chromosome disorder called 1p36 Deletion Syndrome that has caused multiple health and development challenges. Kate has extremely low muscle tone which means that simple milestones like sitting up on her own seemed unattainable. Kate started attending Little Bit when she was 4 years old. Every week we would drive out to the facility so that she could be lifted onto the horse by her physical therapist Steve and then taken around the arena or the trail outside. It was a thrill for me to see her up on the horse. My sweet girl who couldn't walk or talk was riding a horse! But the true benefit was yet to come. Last December, Kate gave me the best Christmas gift ever. She sat up on her own and kept on doing it over and over! It took some time but the consistent work on the horse with a skilled therapist and wonderful volunteers to help greatly increased her trunk strength and gave her the motivation to do what I never thought she would. I still cannot keep myself from being thrilled every time I turn around and find her sitting up. I give all the credit to Little Bit. We are so lucky to have this amazing organization in our area. The staff, the volunteers and of course the horses are wonderful and, quite frankly, they are miracle workers as well!
Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center is so unique that it ranges from unknown to many in the community all the way to being the center of so many of our lives. When people discover just what it is they do and how amazing the organization, services and people are - from riders to volunteers - they want to be involved and they want to help. I became involved with Little Bit when I first organized a charity mountain bike event, and we simply needed a charity. I knew of Little Bit because I biked by there all the time, but knew very little about what exactly they did. After the success with the biking event, I was asked to join the Board of Directors, which allowed me to both contribute more and learn more. The most important step so far though was jumping into volunteering for some classes. It's truly unbelievable. I'm completely out of my comfort zone, as I have no experience with horses, and very little direct experience with people with disabilities. I've not yet been able to witness a person progressing with their therapy, but I have been witness to something you would call "pure joy" with each of the riders I've met. Their time at Little Bit is so important to them - and to me.
It is impossible to leave Little Bit without a smile. The riders continually demonstrate their courage and determination supported by the community. And that is what makes Little Bit special - he community of staff, riders, family, volunteers, and the four-legged therapists striding towards a common goal: the empower and respect those with disabilities while providing them therapeutic and recreational benefits. I love working with the same rider for several years and witnessing the progress. This is an organization where each person truly is vital to their success.
As a teenager, Little Bit taught me a lot about responsibility and helping others. There is such a great spirit and community surrounding Little Bit, even 10 years after I volunteered.
Little Bit gives my son and so many others hope for a child to learn to accomplish more than dreamed possible. My son Xander has become so much stronger since he has been at Little Bit. I love this place, and often get all warm and fuzzy when I visit there.
I guess that just about says it all-I wouldn't still be volunteering every Wednesday at Little Bit if I hadn't witnessed the benefits of the program first hand. The Little Bit staff is wonderful, the horses are well loved and cared for, and every rider gets the personal attention they deserve. I've worked as a "sidewalker" - helping to support & coach riders, as well as a "leader"-responsible for safely coordinating the horses motion with the rider and sidewalkers.
I recently learned about Little Bit and their mission, and instantly fell in love with their program, their people, and especially their horses. The staff and volunteers are remarkably passionate about what they do, it's a very well run organization, and the impact they have on their client's lives is dramatic and immediately obvious. I highly recommend contacting them to go see the program and people in action. Even with over 400 active volunteers, there is a two year wait list for new clients...come on down and lend a hand, it will change your life!