Because of the Personal Ponies organization, strangers came together this weekend as friends. Before Bailey and Sterling came to live here, I didn't know of anyone named Allison, Abigail, Georgia, Gramma or Grampa in Allison's family. It was only after those two little munchkin faces graced my email screen that we all became connected. Because of two dear little hearts and a wise quarter horse, five people had a lovely visit yesterday.
We shared a home cooked meal, belated Christmas gifts, family stories and the light in a little girl's eyes when she was wheeled out to where "our ponies" live. She saw her Christmas card and letter to them taped to the outside of their shelter along side pictures that she drew and colored for them. It was that same light in that little girl's face that beamed over us all, when we took pictures of our ponies at her side. She hugged them, brushed them and laid her face next to their fuzzy coats as they stood perfectly still, drinking in her love. You'd never have thought she was wheel chair bound or wore braces on her legs. We all talked with Abilgail too, about the "vacation," the ponies are having at my house while she goes home with her mother, grandmother and grandfather to do other things that she needs to do to grow up healthy and strong.
I'm sure that the Personal Ponies organization sparks many visits like ours. But it took vision and energy from a kind soul to get that moving and keep it viable. Our visit this weekend signifies a shift for me in "our America" too, one that is returning to love from indifference, choosing to be awake and fully present, rather than moving through life like a robot.
It was lovely to see a family of multiple generations living in one home, all giving to each other on multiple levels, all pouring their love and devotion into a little girl with a ready smile and bright mind despite her special needs. A father came, proud of his family and the stories that he can still tell about his contributions to life and the wisdom in his lessons learned as part of those contributions. A mother and grandmother came with a heart as big as our universe taking care of not only her granddaughter, but her father and daughter too. And that same mother had a ready smile for me, a stranger before we met, yet part of their extended family now. How easily I was adopted. How deeply I felt loved and appreciated.
A young mother came who's spirit and energy matches a shooting star and who listens to the language of her daughter, honoring her intelligent spirit and moving mountains to help her grow as she cares for her special needs. A family friend came too, whom you can see is part of this family's blood and walks as part of that same family circle. She too showered me with gifts and shared in the harmony I strive to create here.
The joy expressed by all brought warmth to a winter day that balanced the bite of the crisp air. The smiles beaming across the desert floor were immeasurable. The gifts we all shared ranged from food to belated Christmas presents and and an overflow of apples and carrots for all the horses that live here with the ponies. There were a few special moments when my dear friend Fred, 26 now in quarter horse years, showed us his majesty in how he looks over "his" ponies.
His benevolence greeted them at the pasture gate when it was time for them all to have their turn out back, and again at lunch when he shared his hay without a second thought. Another moment found its way into the people space when Sterling needed to be corrected for some pawing he was doing near my horse trailer. The person was in the right to kindly correct Sterling's pawing, but Fred let her know that he was watching, and to be sure that the correction was kind and patient. We all laughed at his loving, watchful eye. His connection with the ponies is what started this whole adventure for me, so I am particularly grateful that the vision in my heart is the same one that's materializing.
As the sun makes its way behind the mountain's crest, I look out my office window at three horse pancakes lounging in the sand, taking a nap in the sun after a cold night of wandering around to stay warm. Those pancakes are Fred, Bailey and Sterling. The bigger horses are up from their earlier nap and wandering the back pasture now in their "turn." These are days well spent.
The days shall bring us good things.
In 2007, the very special Ludham family and their two year old daughter, Mahala, joined Personal Ponies Ltd. One of the first ponies from our program to visit the Ludham’s Hillside Ranch was Greystone White Raine, known as Raine. However, Raine’s first visit to the Ludham’s was only in passing. Jeri, Mahalas’s mom, had agreed to help transport three ponies from Atlanta to Louisiana for us and Raine was one of them. Raine spent three days with the Ludlam's and during that time, the whole family fell in love with her. Raine went on her way and two other ponies were sent to Hillside Ranch for Mahala, Lady Blue and her gelded sone Tippy. Three years later, Raine’s caretaker, Kay, called Jeri and asked if she would be interested in caring for Raine and her filly Abby. As Jeri said, “it had to be fate”.
Jeri was delighted and really had no idea at the time the impact Raine would make on Mahala and the friendship that would follow. The pictures we have shared show what a delightful, patient, cooperative Greystone's White Raine has taught a 6 yr old child with Down Syndrome!!! Doctors and therapists had told the family that it was impossible for Mahala to ride completely independently...Raine said, "Stick with me, kid, and we'll DO the impossible"!!! She gave Mahala wings and for that Jeri will tell you she is so grateful!!
Six years later, an 8 year old Mahala is competing in barrel racing and has taught Raine HERSELF the barrel racing patterns. Mahala races against TYPICAL kids....and wins. The pony AND the child LOVE IT!!! To share some of Mahala’s own words with everyone, “My name is Mahala Ludlam. I am 7 years old and I live at the Hillside Ranch in Eufaula, Alabama. We have all kinds of animals on our farm, and I am learning to take care of them. I go to Eufaula Primary School. I am in 2nd grade in Mrs. Hatfield's class. I love my friends. I can dance and sing and ride my horse and read. My horse, Dusty, and I compete against typical kids at Stateline Horseman's Association. In 2012, I have won 8 belt buckles and over 100 ribbons in Barrel Racing, Arena Racing, Tunnel Racing, and Potato Racing...and oh yeah, I have Down Syndrome. But that's not what makes me special. I make me special. My mom says I am NOT DISabled....I am DIFFERENTLY-able. . I may not do things just like everyone else, and it may take a little longer for me, but I CAN do them. Besides what does it matter how long it takes?? We get in too big a hurry in life anyway and forget to LIVE!!!!! Thank you for visiting my page and helping me get the message out to other people who are differently- abled or have children who are differently abled, that we CAN do it!! We can do things thought impossible by our doctors and therapists. Never let them set limits on you!!! You are fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who DOES NOT make mistakes!!! Only Believe!!! If we can ever be of help to you, please contact us at: Attn: Mahala Ludlam Hillside Ranch 190 Hidden Acres Road Eufaula, Alabama 36027”
In 2010, the family had some financial and health challenges which forced them to downsize their pony herd from 10 to only a couple. They kept Raine and she is now retired with them at age 29 where she still is ridden regularly by Mahala. The family wishes they also had Abby who is taking after her mother in personality and patience. In Jeri’s words, “Raine has been blessing to us every day. Mahala comes home from school each day wanting to go directly to the barn. This patient pony allows her to halter, groom and (with help) tack her, and we have total confidence that she is safe on Raine.” Mahala has become quite a horseperson and is currently a Champion barrel racer because of the skills that Raine taught her that she could carry with her to ride the big horse that she races. She and Raine will participate in Pony Barrels in 2013. We are truly thankful for teacher (Greystone White Raine) and student (Mahala).
Jeri said, “She was sent for Mahala I know that!!!!”
OTHER FABULOUS PHOTOS....TO AMAZING NOT TO SHARE!!!!!