On October 20, 2015, our own Silver Bell was nominated Therapy Horse of the Year for Atlantic Horse & Pony Magazine. Here is the text of the nomination:
At the bottom of the page is the Facebook announcement of her winning!
It is with great pleasure that we nominate Silver Bell of Hinchinbrook Farm Society as the Atlantic Therapy Horse of the Year to the Atlantic Horse & Pony magazine.
We nominate Silver Bell on behalf of the hundreds of individuals to whom she has brought strength, peace, emotional highs and life-giving understanding.
With over a quarter century of service as a therapeutic riding horse, Silver Bell still fills each lesson with patience, skill, and respect for her charges. She is now getting on in years, yet is ready whenever called to ease and to aid those with special needs. As one young rider said as she pocketed some of Silver Bell’s mane hair released by grooming – “when I get anxious I smell her hair and it calms me”. Twenty-five years giving therapy.
Silver Bell is a Liver Chestnut registered Morgan, foaled June 23, 1988. She began her career in Therapeutic Riding in 1992 (four years old and already a rock-solid, bomb-proof mount) for Lucky Harvest Project -Recolte Chanceuse, (www.luckyharvest.org). She worked at Lucky Harvest until 2004 (with a short five months of “maternity leave” for the birth of Dandy (June 1996)). In 2006 Silver Bell became the foundation mare for Hinchinbrook Farm Society’s Therapeutic Riding program in Blockhouse, Nova Scotia. And today, she continues to be the lead, caring for those with special needs (and for those of us near her) in untold ways.
Silver Bell is the Matriarch of Hinchinbrook farm. She is referred to as the Princess of the Barn – a.k.a. the boss. Dandy, her son, is also a top-notch Therapeutic Riding horse at Hinchinbrook. Silver Bell was his first teacher, and still keeps him (and the other animals at the farm) in line. We have never known of another horse for whom the riders had so many names: “SB, “B”, Belle, Tinker Bell, Stinker Bell, Bella, Silver Light, Silver McGill …. and, of course, “the Princess”.
Silver Bell is versatile – she uses ‘no bit’ or English, or Western aids. She works in auto-pilot in English or Western tack, and in neck ring. She does some cool tricks (with treats expected!). She has helped riders working at therapy vaulting and hippotherapy, and she drives in any weather using the Meadow Dale Cart. It is a wondrous sight to see prancing down the trestle trail with six or so riders shrieking with glee.
And she is painted! Children love to paint Silver Bell – the confidence and power she gives to these children is not something anyone can buy. As one helped individual put it – “it is Silver Bell who helped me learn to do math and reading”. (Now how did Silver Bell do that? We guess it is between SB and her young charge.)
It is not hard to believe that Silver Bell has had more special needs people than any other living horse (due to her, hmmm, advancing senior status). Most therapeutic riding programs have one or two afternoons a week in a regular barn. Silver Bell has worked every time, every day, she is asked. She is a wonder and a worker (a whinnier not a whiner). Her rhythmical swaying has moved many a rider’s body. To see children loosen up, and begin to sway with her, brings tears to many of their parents’ and caregivers’ eyes (and ours).
Why is Silver Bell unique and deserving of the “Therapeutic Horse of the Year”? All therapy horses help individuals with special needs improve in strength, flexibility, and confidence. And thus all therapy horses need to be recognized for they are all deserving. What is unique about Silver Bell as a therapy horse is her influence on the well-being of all those near her. Silver Bell is often chosen over other horses as the therapeutic mount because of, uniquely, her co-operative ways with the varying handlers. The parents, siblings and caregivers of those with special needs are all affected by Silver Bell’s calm, respectful, giving spirit. They come with their special needs child or sibling and Silver Bell projects and calms the caregivers too. And all for pats and treats! She also eases the day-to-day woes of the volunteers. “I just feel better when I come home from volunteering”- is commonly voiced. “Magical” is how another describes Silver Bell’s body language: “I was asked to work at Hinchinbrook to teach horse communications to help the volunteers with Riding Therapy. It was with Silver Bell that the magic happened effortlessly. One exercise was to learn to ask the horses to relax and close their eyes without the volunteers touching the horses. Each volunteer had their horses lowering their heads, yawning or closing their eyes. As I looked across the ring, I saw the volunteer with Silver Bell, sitting on the ground and Silver Bell’s eyes closed and her head in the volunteer’s lap. I was overwhelmed to see their connection. The person sitting to my left shook their head and said, “I can’t believe what I’m seeing.” The person to my right just looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “That is just so beautiful”. I said, “That is Silver Bell”.” Silver Bell, the wise lady (or Princess SB), works not just with the special needs individual but with all of us. Silver Bell is unique.
As a now deceased, famous movie star, Governor and President once said “I’ve often said there’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.” Silver Bell has given the “outside of a horse” to hundreds of thankful people.
We are nominating Silver Bell of the Hinchinbrook Farm Society to thank her for all her work over 25 years for individuals with special needs. Silver Bell is 29 years old and somewhat stiff in the mornings (like many of us!). The children still hang onto her, lie on her, paint her, ride her, groom her, and it is time for her to be recognized as what she is, the Therapeutic Horse of the Year.