2019 Platinum Performance
Horse Welfare Awards

Nickname: Amiga
Birth Year: 1994. Gender: Mare. Breed: Welsh Pony.
Affiliated with Ride On St. Louis, Inc.

What can you do to honor someone who has spent their life bettering the lives of others?

When Amiga entered the program she fulfilled a great need due to her size, narrow girth and smooth gait. She was the perfect pony for children with a variety of challenges and conditions. Small ones with tight adductors, poor head control, fears and fragile bodies relied on Amiga for strength, joy and a chance to achieve real quality of life improvements that previous therapies or activities could not produce. But everyone in the field of equine-assisted activities and therapies knows that a horse’s mind and personality are just as important (if not more important) as their physical characteristics and conformation. Above all, Amiga is patient and kind with her humans. In addition to working with child clients of Ride On St. Louis, Amiga also shared a role in helping staff build the horsemanship skills of new volunteers—many of whom who had little to no experience working with horses. She was always patient with those learning to put a halter on, forgiving of those new leaders working on mastering our communication cues or aids, and willing to assist the timid volunteer groom learning to pick a hoof for the first time. Amiga also found enjoyment in helping clients in one of our Unmounted Programs. This program serves adults with severe physical and mental disabilities who were non-ambulatory. Portions of the activities include lite grooming and feeding a horse from a tray. Amiga appreciated being with these clients as much as she appreciated the peppermints and watermelon treats they shared with her. I think she could sense their needs and their joy in her presence. She would stand with her head practically in a patient’s lap, calm, quiet and unmoving, while they explored her face with hands and soft brushes. Gentle fingers across her forehead, through her forelocks and even inside of her nostrils. She was a true gift to these individuals. One client in the program was an adult male diagnosed with a closed head injury and quadriplegia. This man had been non-verbal his entire life and his family and caregivers had never heard him speak or even attempt to make sounds of words. When Amiga came over to spend time with him up close, his eyes lit up and a huge open mouth smile leapt unto his face. His excitement and interest in her was astounding, he could barely take his eyes off of her! Staff assisting during this session (including myself) began introducing the client to Amiga. When we told him Amiga’s name, you could see a look of concentration and engagement come across his face. He was very interested, and we slowly kept repeating “A-mi-ga” while holding eye contact with him. In less than 2 minutes this man had spoken his first word, Amiga, including all three syllables as he smiled and reached to pet her mane. We were all astonished as his caregivers informed us that he was non-verbal and this was the first time he spoke and spoke with association.

Amiga has helped her clients speak their first words, take first steps, overcome depression, improve core strength, repair relationships, rewire gait patterns to become more mobile, improve mental capacity, and even better job skills. She has been loved, adored and shared much of her life increasing happiness and health for hurting humans. Amiga is twenty five years old and has retired from these activities and therapies. She is still a part of the Ride On St. Louis herd and remains in our care, at our location. Amiga is a great reminder of why horses should be celebrated and treasured throughout all life stages. She has had a fulfilling career with us and touched the lives of many. She continues to do so even in her retirement, as she is a favorite of many staff and caretakers. As she comfortably transitions into her mid-twenties, we recognize her changing needs, especially as a senior horse. We pride ourselves on producing and maintaining happy, healthy, willing horses who enjoy their role at Ride On St. Louis; we respect our equine partners and provide them with the highest quality care so they may not only produce the best outcomes for our clients, but also thrive in their own personal lives. We are dedicated to making sure Amiga (and all those in our care) are safe, healthy and live in comfort with value and respect through all of their time with us. The Platinum Performance Horse Welfare Award would have a huge impact on Amiga by ensuring that she has the best nourishment before problems arise--key to avoiding potential injury or sickness. Preventive nutrition is one of the most cost-effective investments we can make into her health, personal performance and longevity. Honoring Amiga with this award would directly help to extend her life and provide her the comfort, support and expert care a sweet pony like her deserves in her retirement.

Relationship of Nominator to Nominee
I have been volunteering in a variety of roles with Ride On St. Louis since its inception in 1998 and joined fulltime staff in 2011. Ride On St. Louis also welcomed Amiga to its team in that same year. I have had the utmost pleasure to work closely with her as a trainer, caretaker and program handler throughout her second career with us as an equine-assisted activities and therapies pony. -- BriAnn Session

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