Our son Westin has been riding at Circle of Hope for close to 12 years. He is now 16 years old. Attending Circle of Hope certainly wasn't something he enjoyed in the beginning-a new place, the rattling of the barn in the wind, wearing a helmet. We would drive out to the barn just to get used to the sounds then get used to wearing a helmet. Eventually, he made it on to a pony and today he elegantly trots around the ring.

Horseback riding has translated to helping Westin with other activities in life. For example, it helped him with riding a bike. Riding a bike was something we wanted him to learn for a family activity and for socializing with other kids in the neighborhood. The balance and leg strength he gained at Circle of Hope are necessary for bike riding. Once he learned to balance and peddle the bike on his own, we quickly realized he didn't understand steering. Lesley Shear, his instructor at Circle of Hope, worked on teaching Westin to steer the horse. These many lessons translated to being able to steer his bike.

Westin's list of tangible and intangible accomplishments at Circle of Hope is too great for me to remember and too long for me to list. With patience and perseverance (on everyone's part), he has acquired many skills. He has developed better posture, greater leg strength, a tolerance for different people and places, and a greater ability to follow multi-step verbal directions. The greatest gift of Circle of Hope has been seeing Westin's pride and self-confidence develop as he masters a new skill and leads his horse. Patience, perseverance and self-confidence are priceless life lessons.

We are so grateful to Lesley and the many volunteers at Circle of Hope for all they have given Westin.