When Luke arrived for the first day of camp at Morning Dove Therapeutic Riding, he made no eye contact and dragged behind his family, scowling. Luke, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder, informed the staff his summer was being wasted, he didn’t like horses, didn’t want to be teamed with a girl and no one was to talk down to him.
Then Luke met his horse, Bella, who immediately rested her muzzle on his shoulder and sighed. For the next eight weeks, Luke was her advocate, as well as for another horse who was injured. He explained to his friends what his horses were feeling and asked for help to make them (horses) feel better. For Luke, shifting from anger to taking care of another and sharing a quiet, easy friendship was life-changing.
During his final presentation to campers and parents, Luke announced he was surprised he had actually liked camp very much, and was sad it was ending. His parents told Morning Dove Luke had finally found a place that made him feel good about himself.
Luke and countless others will benefit from a recent $9,000 grant awarded by the Community Foundation of Boone County to Morning Dove, which offers equine programs to a wide range of participants with physical, mental and/or emotional disabilities.
The organization is in the midst of a major expansion of its programs, which, in addition to the summer program for children on the autism spectrum, includes therapeutic riding lessons, hippotherapy anda veteran’s program.
“CFBC is pleased to provide support during this transitional time, allowing Morning Dove to immediately begin serving an additional 30 students each session,” said CFBC Executive Director Mike Caldwell. “This 40 percent enrollment increase makes it possible for more Boone County residents to benefit from Morning Dove’s programs. We look forward to seeing the organization continue to grow and flourish.”