I have helped Joan Twining and Rose of Sharon for the past 6 months on their web site, and continue to do so. I had the pleasure of visiting the school about a month ago and was quite amazed at the facility. I always knew what Joan was doing was an amazing thing that helped others, but I finally "got it" when I visited the facility. It is in such a peaceful and serene environment, and I could sense that the horses knew how much they were helping. There was just an overall feeling of gratitude and kindness as I was walking around. It was extremely refreshing, and something I knew I wanted to be involved more with in the months and years to come.
My daughter has Aspergers syndrome, anxiety, and coordination issues. She is strong willed, and used to doing things her way. She was also terrified of animals prior to working with Joan. Who would have thought that soon she would be following Joan's directions on how to care for these huge animals? Joan is an amazing person, who has the perfect balance of respect, love, and firmness to work with kids on the spectrum. I could go on and on about how much she has changed our lives for the better, but will share just one story. When the time came for my daughter to mount "her" horse Izzy for the first time, she froze. I was outside the ring watching. She tensed up, and she started repeating “I’m scared, I’m scared, I’m scared.” Those of you who know children on the autism spectrum may recognize this moment as the moment before a melt-down. If I had been the person by her side, I know she would have refused to get on, no matter how much I encouraged her. I watched from the distance. Joan just said “It will be OK” and my daughter got on Izzy! That was a miracle for me. Joan had somehow unlocked the door that had gone up in my daughter's mind. She didn’t push her through the door. She didn’t say “come on, get on!” She just made it possible for my daughter to believe she could do it. My daughter rode for at least 10 minutes that day, praciticing to start and stop, to keep good posture, and to tell Izzy she was a good horse. All I could think was "I'm soooo lucky to have found Joan"!
I first met Joan while I was working at Equestrian Services, LLC,(EQSV). EQSV is a firm that that plans & designs horse facilities and resorts. She had contacted us to find out whether we could help her with some horse related layout issues with her farm. The email that she sent to EQSV was forwarded on to me, and it was apparent from her email how determined and passionate she was about her organization. I was lucky enough that my company asked me to take a trip out to Maryland to visit her and see the farm in which she ran her organization from. My co-worker and I made the trip and we were more than impressed by her and the organization she had created. It was so refreshing to meet a person like her and see all the wonderful opportunities and moments she was providing to those with disabilities. Thankfully, we were able to provide some assistance with our services and we are looking forward to continuing to watch the organization grow!
My Aunt Barbara was diagnosed with schizophrenia over 40 years ago. Though now living in a group home, she had been hospitalized and under heavy medication for many years. Before her illness, Barbara had been a gifted artist and had been especially fond of horses. Several years ago, I started to regularly visit my Aunt. Knowing her interest in horses, I had hoped to find some sort of equestrian facility for us to visit together. How truly fortunate we were to have found Rose of Sharon. During our first visit to Rose of Sharon, Barbara would not even approach the horses, and would want to leave the barn after only a few minutes. Later, however, when I would ask if she would like to visit "Joanie and the horses," I would always receive an enthusiastic "Oh Boy!" Little by little, and with Joan Twining's love and patience, Barbara would spend a few more minutes near the horses. After a long absence, Barbara even petted Fancy's nose--a huge milestone for her. Under Joan's gentle guidance, Barbara's ability to confidently stand near the horses, to brush Izzy and to follow directions dramatically improved. I know it is not easy to operate a small, underfunded organization such as Rose of Sharon. However, I know that my Aunt's story is the norm, and not the exception.
As a new volunteer who got started last fall, and is currently helping with weekly riding lessons, I've been consistently encouraged, delighted, and humbled by Joan Twining and her equestrian school. I'm particularly inspired by this organization's inclusive and holistic approach. Whether they're holding a curry comb for the first time, measuring out scoopfuls of feed together, practicing advanced skills in the riding ring, or helping hose down a horse in the specially designed wash stall, students (and volunteers!) are learning that all aspects of riding are accessible to them. At Rose of Sharon, the multiplicity of our experiences, and the spectrum of our challenges--urban and rural, horse and human, teacher and student--are not barriers to be met with resignation. They are variations to be explored, shared, and celebrated, with honesty, openness, humor, and courage.
Joan Twining has devoted her life to realizing her vision of a place of safety and calm for people with physical, emotional, and developmental challenges. Her work with the horses, children, volunteers, and the physical facility testifies to her deep committment and dedication to this mission. ROSES is surely a place where "miracles happen every day," and the students and families who experience its magic will feel its benefits long into the future.
My son, dx autism, absolutely loved to go to Rose of Sharon to ride his favorite horse, Izzy. Joan and Karen worked with him on his communication and on following directions. The physical movement helped him with his balance and core strength. I would recommend Rose of Sharon to any parent - my son was treated with respect and he had a fantastic time!
I met Joan when she asked me to mount a poster for a fund raiser she was having. It was when I delivered the posters that I saw the wonderful things that were happening at Roses. Joan works very hard to make sure that her students get the help they need and have fun doing it. When I started volunteering a month or so ago, I truly saw the time and effort that Joan puts into making sure her students learn, gain self confidence and communicate. I also see the other side of Roses and the time and energy that Joan puts into the administrative and logistical end of her functions as the Director. Roses is a amazing place where students thrive. Joan is a remarkable person (as is her staff) and I am truly grateful that our paths have crossed.
As evidenced by the wonderful facility and openness to a variety of modalities, this organization is extremely dedicated to the clients it serves. They make an extremely positive impact on people's lives.
These are the most caring and unselfish group of people I have ever met. Twice a week to help facilitate 5 autistic children, learn to ride. The center director and instructor are amaizing. This experience not only brings joy and a feeling of calm to the students, it has a very positive effect on me. I know I go home with as much joy as the children (Maybe even more). I truly look forward to a very long and loving relatioinship with this organization. Diane Miceli