Stories from the kids

a collection of letters from those we've helped

Dear Ellen,

I’m writing this letter to you because I wanted to thank you for the experience that I had at Jewel View. I know that I had already told you in person, but I feel as though I wasn’t able to fully express my gratitude towards you.

I remember first seeing Caruso. I immediately felt drawn to him and chose him to be my horse. Reflecting back on this, I realize that it simply wasn’t a coincidence that I picked him. As cliche as it sounds, it definitely was meant to be. Both Caruso and I shared many things in common. The first time I took Caruso out of his stable, I was utterly scared. My anxiety began to kick in. I had never been that close to a horse before. As I looked over my shoulder at Caruso, I could see that he was just as anxious as I was. He kept shifting his weight on his legs.

Ellen, you encouraged me to pet him so I reached out my hand and began to stroke his side. I was able to literally feel the both of us begin to calm down. Gradually, Caruso and I began to trust one another. A few weeks later, I mounted Caruso and experienced the very same situation with him again. I remember you telling me that I had to remain calm and that I was able to do it. I awkwardly grabbed Caruso’s reins and we were off on a slow start.

Caruso was new to your stable and he wasn’t all too familiar yet with your arena. There were times when he’d walk away from an obstacle course because he was scared to try it. Yet, I was always able to soothe his fears by reaching over and hugging him. Eventually, as we finally went through the obstacles, I found myself talking out loud to him, saying how he was doing great and how proud of him I was. Little did I know that the compliments were also meant for me.

Around the same time that I started riding, I was going through some personal struggles. My anxiety had gotten in the way of me being able to attend school on a regular basis. However, I found that the more time that I spent with Caruso, the more I was able to transfer that positive experience into other places in my life, such as school and family. I’m proud to say that I now attend school on a daily basis.

Being with Caruso, having him nuzzle me and seeing him happy, has made me in turn feel happy. I’ve felt more confident and now know that I am able to accomplish anything I want to, I just have to remember not to give up and to not let my anxiety stop me. This was definitely an important therapeutic experience for myself. I’ve gained a lot from it and am very grateful for having the chance to participate in your riding program. I know other kids like me will gain the same experience that I did.

Sincerely, Nicole

Dear Kody,

When I look into your eyes I see strength, love and determination. There is no negative judgement coming out of your mouth. I wanted to say thank you for being you Kody. You are my best friend, when I ride; you push me past my limits because you know that I can go further. Everytime I come up to ride I push myself to do better than I did the week before because I know that you have faith in me to do so. Before I came to Youthdale I was having a very hard time functioning on a day to day basis. All of my struggles with focus and anxiety and depression always stopped me from doing the things that I wanted to do. I have learnt over the past ten weeks of riding with you that no matter how big or small the obstacle is I can get over it if I put my mind to it.

The one of many attributes that make you so special is you have never once judged me when I have made a mistake while riding. You see right past them and keep going, if only humans could do the same I wonder what the world would be like. It’s amazing how you as an animal can help more than any other medicine could ever do. When I was walking through the door to see you everything from my day is gone. All my problems become closer to invisible and I can just be Sydney. All of the labels disappear. I become the Sydney that loves to ride and you give that to me. Being able to ride is something that I’ve wanted to do but my mom could never pay for it.

Thank you so much for giving me that.

Love, Sydney

Ellen, thank you so much for helping me learn to horseback ride. And also how to persevere, showed me not only teamwork but how to be a leader. You showed me how to put my problems aside and just focus on Bubba and put my focus on him. As well as kindness. Also when things got tough you showed lots of optimism, and not giving up, just because things got tough. Also you taught me how to trust my own judgement with Bubba and responsibility with him and taking charge when I need to. THANK YOU VERY MUCH ELLEN & BUBBA.

— Jasmine

I want to thank you a million times over for this amazing opportunity. I love animals and going over, I also saw some cats and dogs along with the horses. It’s awesome to see horses and think, “hey, I can ride one!” or see it in a movie and wonder about them. I’m so happy I got to spend so much time with Kody, and of course with you all. You’ve helped me a lot and taught me more than how to ride a horse. That being said, Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

— Nathalie

Thank you Ellen for allowing us to have such a great experience. I never know how much fun horseback riding could be so much fun. I want to thank you for all your hard-work, dedication and your patience. I wouldn’t have had such a wonderful experience it hadn’t been for your honesty, and being so helpful to all of us. Thank you for helping me feel successful, even when I wasn’t in the best of moods. Thanks for everything.

— Brenda

Dear Ellen, I’ve had my share of ups and downs riding Tuff, but no matter how frustrated I would get, you were always by my side, encouraging me to take control. You taught and gave me tips that helped me ride better, and even to develop a great relationship with Tuff. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to ride Tuff, it was a great experience and memory that I will take with me once our lessons are over. Thank you for looking after me and always making sure I had a good time.

— Ida

Dear Ellen, thank you so much for running this program. It was always what I worked for. You are a wonderful teacher and thank you for your patience and understanding, and most of all, thank you for Cole.

— Rachel

What and experience! Thank you so much for this opportunity to explore something new, and overcome my fears. I learned so much through this experience, about horses and myself. What a wonderful gain of confidence! Thanks so much!

— Adena

Ellen, thank you for giving me this “obstacle overcoming” experience. It was great working with you and Scout! Thanks so much for this experience!

— Hayley

Ellen, What an excellent program you run... Priceless. Your energy and persistence with the kids lasts far longer than the 2 hours a week. Keep up the inspiring work! Good luck.

— Paula

Dear Ellen,

Thank you for taking the time to give us this wonderful experience with your horses.

— H, S, A, A, A, W & D

Dear Ellen,

Nothing on this planet compares to a horse... Except maybe how open and generous your heart of gold is.

Thank you

— E

Dear Ellen,

"The heart of a volunteer is not measured in size but by the depth of the commitment to make a difference in the lives of others. You have all made a huge difference in our lives this summer. So, from us to you, we give a heartfelt thank you!

— H, S, A, A, A, W, R & D

A volunteer is an angel that leaves footsteps on your heart.

— E

Riding Kracker these past six weeks has made my summer enjoyable and has made this summer easier to get threw and has given me something to look forward to even on my darkest days. I was so happy to be offered a spot in the program.

— H

Ellen and Youthdale Riding Program,

What I got out of this six week program was a chance to be looked at differently. To be looked at as if I had potential. Before you even knew me, you believed in me. Getting to know how caring, soft and gentle, Matt was changed my perspective on horses. I was no longer terrified. Riding with Viki was great. The trust and bond I have built with her is irreplacable. Know someone cares about me and supports my well being makes me wish I got more time with her. Despite how I was feeling, she was always there to talk me down and comfort me. When I was feeling scared, I always knew I was in the hands of Matt and Viki no matter what. I learned not only how to ride and how and control a horse in six weeks but I learned communication skills and the importance of talking. I also learned that I underestimate myself alot and I need to work on that. But most of all, I learned to love horses and I wanna continue riding as a permanent thing.

Thank you!

— S