Chica was hands down the greatest therapeutic horse. We lost her unexpectedly late this year and I believe no other horse, living or not, comes close to the impact she had on our riders. One of her greatest accomplishments was changing the life of Carter. Carter came into our center as a small girl that could barely parrot what you said, suffering from sensory processing disorder and being assessed for an autistic diagnosis. For six months, Carter was overwhelmed by the sights, smells, textures and sounds of the therapeutic barn. She loved the horses but found the place intimidating and overstimulating and would not get on a horse.
When Chica arrived at our facility, Carter came into her own. Chica did not change the little girl Carter was, but she did allow Carter to become the girl she was meant to be. Be it her wise eyes, her soothing movements or her almost psychic way of predicting Carter’s emotions and mirroring them before we knew what she was feeling, for some reason Chica and Cater were two puzzle pieces that just fit together and completed one another. With Chica, Carter went from parroting words to telling imaginative stories—something people said Carter would never do. With Chica, Carter developed her fine and gross motor skills, she learned to use a straw and stick her tongue out.
Carter’s psychiatrists and doctors have specifically attributed her advancement from potentially being further on the spectrum to now being high-functioning to Chica. Not therapeutic riding, not speech therapy, OT, or a miracle—her official medical paperwork says Chica did it. Carter is not the only rider affected by Chica, but they were a partnership that cannot be matched or replicated. Chica succumbed to an accidental injury this summer and Carter has not been the same. Just as much as Chica’s presence impacted Carter’s life, her absence has too. Chica winning this honor would be a way to celebrate her life and accomplishments and help Carter, our other riders, staff and volunteers to honor her and process what she did during her life.