Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

What we done and what we might do in future, with your help

Dear Friends, 

This is a letter about miracles you created.

Individuals like you made a significant and lasting impact on people in our community in need of support. Through your generous donations, participation at our fundraising events and time volunteered, individuals with special needs had the opportunity to rise above challenges and prove that with hard work and a community of believers, anything is possible
Let me share with you (with author's permission) a story about Tommy and his experience with Spirit Open Equestrian Program. 
This is a story written by Tommy's mom. 
I hope you will enjoy it, as your support made it happen:

This is what I wrote for Tommy.  I know it is long, but it says everything about what a blessing Spirit is.



"Our Tommy started his life as a miracle, nearly dying before he was born.  He learned to laugh and smile to himself, keeping the rest of the world separate.  He couldn’t crawl, so he just rolled himself around the room, spinning from corner to corner.  He seemed to have his own language and talked vigorously to himself.  But then one day he stopped smiling and laughing, not even at the things he saw in his own world.  He started to have seizures, trapping him in a blank, ugly place we couldn’t reach him, preventing him from eating, causing him to wither. 

Then there were the doctors, the pediatric neurologists, the neurosurgeons.  The doctors were kind.  Tommy didn’t want to talk to them, or anyone.   He would curl up into a ball and cry.  We couldn’t reach him.  There was the brain tumor.  Was it more?  Was it progressive?  “Go home and enjoy him.”  No treatment, no cure.  One day this specialist, the next another.  One day he would come home with electrodes decorating his head, the next to an MRI.  Then to bloodwork.  And another MRI.  And on and on, so many issues, for Tommy a world of pain.

We were blessed that the tumor stopped growing.  Thanks to wonderful teachers and specialists, we were able to get Tommy to come into our world over the years.  He was clearly becoming receptive to us, but would not express anything.  I didn’t know what his world was like, or how he perceived ours.  How could he navigate our world?  What did he think of our landscape? 

I realized as he became more expressive, that the landscape of our world was pain to him.  When we would go out on trips around town, he would say, “That’s where I got blood tests.”  “That’s where there’s the MRI.”  “That’s where there is Dr. Angel.”  He could tell us what “MRI” stood for, but couldn’t tell left from right.  He could mimic the sound of the hospital machines, but would cry at the sound of laughter.  That was his understanding of the “real” world.

But then we saw the Spirit Open Equestrian therapeutic riding program.  I had ridden horses when I was younger, and I remember all of the confidences I used to share with them.  I hoped the horses could help Tommy be less frightened of our world.    

We took him to get boots, breeches, and a helmet.  And then to his first lesson.  We were surprised that he wasn’t afraid of the ponies.  After awhile, he smiled at them.

Tommy started talking about them to us.  He was waking up to something nice in our world.  He couldn’t wait to go to lessons.  He talked about how the ponies breathe gently (“whiffle-snuffling,” as he says) and that he loves how they feel.  He tells me that they help him talk.  During his first lessons, you could see him struggling to respond to instructions on how to sit, how to hold the reins, where to look.  He didn’t have much confidence in himself or the world.

But the wonderful thing about the Spirit program is that Ms. Dada and the instructors have this magic way of understanding each student’s needs, and pushing them just enough.  They allow Tommy to be a kid, but they don’t condescend.  There is a right and a wrong way to do things, and that has brought out a sense of accomplishment for Tommy, an understanding of goals. 

Now, after two years of riding, Tommy’s landscape has changed.  We drive down Fairfax County Parkway and he says “That’s where I go riding.”  He saw a woman one time and told me “She looks like Ms. Dada.  Ms. Dada is a good one.”  We pass by the saddlery and he says “That’s where I get my boots.”

His teachers and therapists remark on his progress, his ability to socialize more.  He now has a topic to share with people – horses – that anyone is happy to talk about.  His world isn’t just hospitals or clinics.

Tommy still has his own world, but he’s willing to share ours, too.  After 18 months of lessons, he trotted on his own.  Ms. Dada looked at him and smiled and said “you’re very good at that!”  Tommy grinned impishly and said “I know.”

Last month, at his 12-yr-old physical, he still didn’t want to talk to his pediatrician.  The offices still remind him of pain.  But then I mentioned he was riding.  He suddenly looked up at the doctor and said, “I like Huckleberry!  I’m talking about horses here!”  And he did.

I cannot begin to tell you how much the program, Dada, the volunteers, and the ponies have meant to our family.  The Spirit program is one of the reasons we will stay in the DC metropolitan area for as long as possible.  Tommy would not be the same without it."

As you consider your year-end charitable giving, I would like you to take a moment to imagine the impact of a donation to Spirit.  Spirit yearly creates over 2,000 lesson hours. Client tuition fees cover only 30% of Program expenses. The remaining cost of the program is covered by donations and volunteer work.
Our 2014 program enrollment numbers will depend on the funds generated now, so I ask that you donate by December 31st. 
Your support will have an immediate impact on Spirit and the individuals that benefit from our programs.  We exist to serve you, your neighbors, and your loved ones-to provide hope, healing, empowerment and recovery.  We can't wait to continue this momentum in 2014!

Thank you for being a part of the Spirit community.

Make your pony special tomorrow :)

Last minute idea - bring some seasonal decoration and make your pony a special one for this Holiday Ride for Spirit Event tomorrow !

Looking forward to seeing you a all tomorrow to celebrate work ofSPIRIT Open Equestrian Program in 2013

Thursday, December 26, 2013


All volunteers, families and riders!
Our RIDE FOR SPIRIT traditional event is close, and we are looking forward to celebrate together a Holiday season, and end of the great year at the Frying Pan Farm Park at the Indoor ring this Saturday Dec/28th
Volunteers, please come at 9 AM at the Barn.
Riders, your time is 11 AM at the Indoor ring.
4H Team come at 9 as well, please :)
10-11 AM Demo of Pony Games done by 4H friends and Spirit Mentor volunteers
11 AM - 1 PM - Presentation of riding and horsemanship skills of Spirit Riders and Pony rides

See  you Saturday!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

To friends, families, donors, instructors, assistants, mentors, volunteers....

Everyone have a Joyful Holiday Season!

Merry Christmas and any Holiday you celebrate!

Happy New Year!

Sharing a nice video and message...

Suman Sharma and Raj Vats - both students at SPIRIT Open Equestrian Program, friends and great family...
So I am sharing their Holiday Greeting Video as part of our message, too


Sorry for confusion. Few days ago it was published (at the FCPA web site) that today, 12/24 Park will be open until noon. It has been changed.
See you Thursday, 12/26 at 11 (Assistants, Mentors, and Volunteers in training)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Wet and muddy, but decorated

  • Keeping Holiday Spirit Up...

  • So sorry that Samantha and FB came late ...horses were waiting in stalls in case someone is coming, but at 11.15 I let them out again....

  • Tomorrow - Park will be closed at noon, so we shall meet at 10, and finish before 11.45
  • Rain...

    Good morning!
    Horses are soaked wet ...not sure if it is possible to get them ready to ride this morning....
    Maybe a good time to do last minute shopping or bake a cake instead playing with muddy friend :)
    Tonight they will be in stalls (temperature will drop a lot) and tomorrow morning it will be much more fun to work with them.

    Saturday, December 21, 2013

    Next Sat Dec/285h

    Adjustment - Our 4H friends will ride with our Mentors Volunteers and do Demo of Pony Games....come and see them at 10 AM Sat, Dec 28th at the Indoor ring at Frying Pan Farm Park.
    At 11 we continue program of Ride for Spirit Event and celebrate achievements of our students.
    Pony rides for guests will be available, too.
    If you have a pony and want to participate at this event, let us know :)

    Friday, December 20, 2013

    Saturday 12/21 and 12/28

    Saturday 21 – Volunteers, friends, and relatives open event (at lower outdoor ring, if weather permits)
    Saturday 28 - 11 AM - 1 PM: Annual Ride for Spirit show for our students in therapeutic and beginners program.

    Dear volunteers!
    See you tomorrow as usual. Horses need your care and to get them ready for friends and relatives 
    Lets enjoy this season, and share Spirit's magic with dear ones
    10-12 AM

    Saturday after Christmas, we shall be in the indoor ring again, and our students will Ride for Spirit. This is our Traditional annual show and we need your help...to decorate space, and as always, to keep our riders safe and successful. Come and help your favorite Spirit Student to earn a Champion Ribbon at the event of 12/28th!

    Thursday, December 19, 2013

    Peak of the Holiday Season!

    For the next two weeks – Dec 23-Jan 4 – on the weekdays will not have any evening activities at SPIRIT Open Equestrian Program.
    and No activities on Christmas Day or New Years Day--the park will be closed.
    Instead we will have this schedule:
    Monday-Friday11 AM - 1 PM: Instructors, Assistants, Mentors, and volunteers in training will have riding time (trail rides or indoor)  
    Saturday 21 – Volunteers, friends, and relatives open event (at lower outdoor ring, if weather permits)
    Saturday 28 - 11 AM - 1 PM: Annual Ride for Spirit show for our students in therapeutic and beginners program.

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

    Important message for all volunteers

    Saturday, Dec/21 - if weather permits - special opportunity (again) for volunteers, BOD members,  friends and sponsors of SPIRIT Open Equestrian Program - come and meet our horses and learn something about Natural Horsemanship 10-12 at the lower ring.
    Snow, rain or temperature below 40 F will mean cancellation of this event.
    No panic, Saturday Dec/28th we have one more Event at indoor ring 11 AM -1 PM
    See you!


    Saturday, Dec/21 - if weather permits - special opportunity (again) for volunteers, BOD members,  friends and sponsors of SPIRIT Open Equestrian Program - come and meet our horses and learn something about Natural Horsemanship 10-12 at the lower ring.
    Snow, rain or temperature below 40 F will mean cancellation of this event.
    No panic, Saturday Dec/28th we have one more Event at indoor ring 11 AM -1 PM
    See you!

    Rain tonight?

    If it is heavy rain today, no activities at the Spirit field. :)
    Check it before leave the house.

    Friday, December 13, 2013

    Winter classes, starting Jan 13th and Feb24th

    Almost all winter classes (January, February) for therapeutic riding program are full (only one space for Tuesday Jan 14th)

    Few spaces for kids beginners, and more for adults.

    We shall create some openings for more therapeutic riding students, so please, contact me about details.

    Thursday, December 12, 2013

    This Saturday

    Saturday plans:
    weather condition push the whole show in indoor ring...but SPIRIT Open Equestrian Program is still in charge to help about event and it will be great opportunity for all Spirit volunteers to participate and learn about horse show management.
    First group should be at the indoor at 9.30, and anyone after that,  and look for Allison, the manager to get instructions about work to be done.
    Before and after you are welcome to come to Higgins House and warm up with hot chocolate or soup...whatever you like better...

    Spirit Horses will be fed, and we need help at the field to put blankets on and get them ready for the second winter storm this year. If you have no schedule at the show, come and help us keep our friends dry and warm

    Thank you and see you Saturday.
    do not forget that Friday we shall have no activity at the field.
    Take care, and stay warm.

    For Friday people

    Reminder - Until warmer weather condition, no Friday activities at the Spirit field.
    Please, if you commited to help us Fridays, switch to another day at the week or stay in touch to find out when it will be back on schedule.

    Wednesday, December 11, 2013

    See you tonight

    Great winter day today
    Hope all have electricity back and see you tonight at 5 

    Monday, December 9, 2013

    Another Snow Day

    Another snow day tomorrow
    Dear volunteers and families. Stay dry and warm, for students - use this time off to get ready for finals....
    Hoping that Wednesday we shall have a good time together with our horses.
    Be well!

    Next event - are you ready?

    Ready for a next event?
    Dec 14th Show at the indoor ring at the Frying Pan Farm Park 
    Thank you all who signed into the schedule to help Spirit in this project. 
    There are still some space at all shifts. Let me know if you want to spend Saturday at the Horse show. 

    Before and after your shift warm soup, pizza, tea of coffee at Higgins House (delivery to the indoor possible, too  )

    December 14, 2013

    Hunter Horse Show Volunteer Sheet – Indoor Arena

    Jump Crew – Help adjust the jump heights between classes and set out any extra jumps for the Handy classes, if necessary

    Ribbon Help – Keep track of winners for each class and hand out ribbons to the Lead Line, Pre-Short Stirrup and Short Stirrup classes

    All volunteers will probably be asked to help open and close the gate between classes. We will have experienced Frying Pan Staff to work the gate for the jumping classes.
    Morning Shift 8:30am - 11:30am
    1. Jump Crew ___________________________
    2. Jump Crew ___________________________
    3. Jump Crew/Ribbon Help ____________________________
    Afternoon Shift 11:30am – 2:30pm
    1. Jump Crew ______________________________
    2. Jump Crew ______________________________
    3. Jump Crew/Ribbon Help____________________________
    Late Afternoon Shift 2:30pm – 5:30pm
    1. Jump Crew______________________________
    2. Jump Crew______________________________
    3. Jump Crew/Ribbon Help________________________________
    Evening Shift 5:30pm - 8:30pm
    1. Jump Crew________________________________
    2. Jump Crew________________________________
    3. Jump Crew/Ribbon Help_____________________________

    Snow day

    Once again - THANK YOU! to all volunteers, guests, parents, families and friends who helped this Saturday. It was great event and lot of good memories have been created - SPIRIT Open Equestrian Program has been presented well one more time :)

    For all of us (except Jeff, Don, Terry, Andrew and me who are around barn today, anyway) - good news - let's take a break together with our horses, and let this winter storm go away.
    Horses are dry and warm, have hay and they seem to be happy to have a day off, too.
    See you tomorrow :)

    Sunday, December 8, 2013

    Saturday, December 7, 2013

    Wonderful Saturday today

    Between horrible rain yesterday and snow storm tomorrow, today we had a beautiful sunny December day, just made for our Presentation and Open House Event. 
    Thank you all who made it happen today. 
    Dozens of volunteers, and families, our riders and guests, with horses together, worked hard and created again some memories for each of us. 
    Thank you Solovyev family for great videos they donated to Spirit today to promote our vision...

    Best wishes to all Spirit People and thank you for all

    Friday, December 6, 2013


    ...all horses are in stalls, and no activity tonight...See you tomorrow at 9 (volunteers), at 11 (riders) and at 1PM - for Open House...

    Sunday, December 1, 2013

    Infinity, special mare

    Thinking of Infinity

    Thank you is not enough...

    ...but missing words to say anything else.
    Thank you all!
    Effie, Julia, Paty - cleaned all floors at the Higgins House! After long time spent in painting, cleaning floors became the main issue!
    I can not believe that three ladies did it so fast!
    Vera, Talya, Brooke worked on posters, so higgins House is full of testimonies and pictures of magical moments with horses...and more to come :)
    Tim Solovyev made a special video about Spirit's vision and work in community.
    You will be able to see it at Open House Day !
    Eric, Alex and Connor worked hard cleaning and loading garbage at the Big Red Truck.
    Jeff took care of the first load ...
    Mindy organized tables and Silent Auction items, finished cleaning...
    Brooke, Sandy Anne,and many more worked hard this week end, too.
    So we are almost done and ready for next Saturday event!
    See you there!