If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a miniature horse must be worth a million.
Judging from the children's response when Little Bear, a miniature horse, trotted into the auditorium at Pleasant Valley Elementary School, that picture spoke volumes.
Little Bear is a member of the Equi-librium team in Sciota, "where horses give people the opportunity to achieve balance in body, mind and spirit."
Yvonne Darlington and Diane Morris, two instructors and Dawn Loveland, a volunteer and staff member, all from Equi-librium, gave a presentation to the students and staff of PVE to help in the ongoing fundraiser of Pennies for Ponies to help keep this valuable program alive.
Equi-librium, under the management of Patricia Sayler, president and CEO, is a nonprofit organization that offers equine-assisted activities for children and adults with a broad spectrum of special needs.
It was founded in 2001 to continue and expand the services formerly offered by Easter Seals' RISE program. It started with five children and today, helps 100 children and adults a week, starting at ages 2 years old and up.
It also now has a carriage driving program. There are 18 staff members and 150 volunteers.
"We try to help people, mostly children, with challenges. Their bodies might not be working in some way. Some are blind, some are in wheelchairs, some have brain issues. With the help of horses, we help their bodies to be the best they can be," Yvonne Darlington told the children.
She explained that horses are used in this special kind of therapy because they are a lot of fun and they provide movement much like that of a human walk
Hippotherapy has been shown to improve muscle tone, balance, posture, coordination, motor development as well as emotional well-being.
"And when you're riding a horse, you have to pay attention," she said.
She showed the children a wooden horse they use first to teach children about sitting on a horse and teach them how to play bean bags from a horse.
She introduced a face familiar to the students, Mrs. Theresa Kelso, a substitute teacher in the school district.
Mrs. Kelso told them that she has cerebral palsy and that she didn't learn to walk until she was seven years old. She showed them the walker she used while learning to walk.
"I learned to ride a horse because it helped me with my posture, my gait and my self-esteem-how I viewed myself. Equilibrium helped me with my physical therapy."
Diane Morris, a driving instructor at Equi-librum, read a book she wrote, titled, "Little Bear the Helping Horse" and how he found a job helping children with special needs.
Dawn Loveland, a retired music teacher from PVE, said she has always loved horses and wanted to work on a horse farm when she retired.
"Now I get up early to care for the horses at 6 a.m. I learned how to drive a tractor. When they said they needed to raise money, I thought about asking all my former students to help raise the money through Pennies for Ponies. So next week, bring your pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters to keep Equilibrium going."
Money can also be raised by purchasing the book written by Diane, "Little Bear, the Helping Horse" and "Inky, the Barn Cat" by Elizabeth Bernaski.
If you would like to help Equi-librium continue to help children with special needs, send your donation to Pennies for Ponies, Pleasant Valley Elementary,