Alex started at Mane Stream’s Summer Camp in 2016 when he was 9 years old. He enjoyed “pretty much EVERYTHING!”, which included taking care of the horses and learning to ride. After Summer Camp, Alex decided to continue riding horses at Mane Stream. He learned that "horses are great animals and thought that riding was very fun". Even though it can be difficult getting to know each horse’s personality and learning how to tell the horses what to do, Alex’s mom, Cathy, indicated that “riding really calms Alex down and makes him feel better.” Alex says, “It’s interesting how each horse feels so different” and he can’t wait to master cantering!
Alex’s favorite horse used to be Max. Max, who is now retired from the Mane Stream herd, was "big but calm and nice". Alex said that Max helped him learn the basics of riding. Now his favorite horse is Dorito, who helps him patiently learn the “harder stuff” with his instructor, Kelly. Kelly has a way of always making Alex feel good about himself without being negative. After nearly two years now, the two have a pretty tight bond.
Alex comes to Mane Stream from quite a distance—over 50 minutes away—so it can be difficult when he firsts arrives and gets out of the car. However, once he gets over that hump, it is “game on”, according to Kelly. Alex loves to learn and follows directions well. Kelly noticed that Alex was much more relaxed and social the second time he came to camp. He’s also learned to trust Kelly and recently asked to learn to canter, which can be a scary thing. However, together (Alex, Kelly, and his horse) have built the trust needed to make that leap!
Another major factor in Alex’s riding experience at Mane Stream has been his volunteer, Will. Alex believes the volunteers at Mane Stream take care of the horses so that kids can learn and have fun. Will has definitely played a huge role in Alex’s lessons. Will is an experienced rider, so having a teenage guy assist with Alex’s lessons is key. After Kelly gives directions, Will can help if needed by saying, “When I ride I do this too.” That little comment can make all the difference for Alex. Will and Alex have a strong bond and Alex looks forward to seeing Will every week.
So how did Alex find out about Mane Stream? Alex’s mom, Cathy, stumbled upon Mane Stream on the internet and then spoke to a volunteer who raved about the programs and summer camp. Cathy felt a camp for ALL abilities was very important for Alex because of his emotional needs and would be a great place to introduce him to riding. The camp worked very well for Alex because of the small group size, length of the camp day, and the interaction with the horses. It was the perfect fit! He looks forward to coming back to camp again this year!
Continuing to ride after camp was more Cathy’s decision. Alex was so successful at camp where he was functioning completely independently without an aid or family member. Since he’s continued, Alex and his mom have observed many improvements! Seeing his riding skills improve was not their main goal, though they have improved tremendously. The calming effect of being with the horses was actually the main goal. When Alex is around the horses he’s able to control his emotions more appropriately. And, when Alex participated in the Fall Horse Show, his eyes were opened to the thrill of competition. “After he won a blue ribbon,” his mom beams, “it was the best!” Cathy stated with surprise, “I never knew how competitive Alex was!”