Optimist Jeremy Dreesen, Essie, and Sheryl Fogle in the Dayspring barn.

The Noon Optimist Club of Marshall met in-person May 19 in Hutchins Hall of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church under the leadership of President of Julie Brock, Secretary Melissa Al-Ahmadi and Treasurer Michele Fuller and learned about Dayspring Equine Therapy.

Club members were again delighted to have Optimist Ned Calvert present and to hear that his wife Sarah continues to progress in her struggle with COVID-19 in Christus-Good Shepherd of Longview.

Sheryl Fogle who was to present the club’s program arrived early with her husband, former Optimist Sam Fogle, to do setup especially for the short video and arrange other materials for Dayspring Therapeutic Equestrian Center (TEC). A special thanks goes to David Montoya for his help with setting up the video. He is the husband of Optimist Isabel Martinez.)

Visitor Karen Wiley enjoyed getting to talk with Optimist Ned Calvert after not seeing him for a couple of years. Sheryl Fogle later admitted that today was Dayspring’s first speaking engagement since COVID-19 struck and Optimist Richard Magrill responded that she was, in fact, the club’s first in-person speaker from outside the club since the pandemic began. Everyone present partook of a lunch from Bodacious Barbecue.

President Julie called the meeting to order and asked Rev. Rusty Rustenhaven to pray. The club was especially glad that Rusty could make the meeting since he and his wife Druann had just gotten back from central Texas. She got to hold their new grandson Russell for the first time. Rusty, because of being at a church meeting when he was born got to hold Russell earlier than Druann!

Club members repeated the Optimist Creed and President Julie turned the podium over to Sheryl who recalled that the event which launched her lifelong passion with horses into the new trajectory of equine therapy occurred on a day, February 22, 2012, when Sam invited her to an Optimist club meeting.

Margo Dewkett, founder and director of Windridge Therapeutic Center of East Texas, talked about its work and Sheryl made a connection with Margo that blossomed into Dayspring Therapeutic Equestrian Center (TEC) of Harrison County. Slightly more than a year later, she and Sam moved to their new 10-acre spread and on March 27, 2013, they founded Dayspring and on April 24th they were with the Optimists to share the joy of its beginnings.

Rose Mary Magrill and Optimists Richard Magrill and Jeremy Dreesen, the club’s newest member, visited Sheryl and Sam this past Monday afternoon during a somewhat cold shower. Spoon Essence, one of the quarterhorses whose barn name is Essie, came in from the pasture. She was accompanied by the outcries of Lena, who arrived May 1 and did not approve of her comforting friend’s temporary journey to the barn for a photo op with Jeremy and Sheryl.

Club members on Wednesday were able to get a rainless and brightly colored visual sense of what Dayspring is like on a fall day through means of a video that Sam has recently developed. In the video club members met Levi a 9-year-old client whose impairment is a missing central nervous system that means that the two hemispheres of his brain cannot communicate with each other.

“Making those neural connections is important and Levi has been in the program for almost two years, and his parents recently reported that he said, ‘hello Mommy’ and ‘hello Daddy’ which was very exciting since those were sentences!,” Fogle said. “Levi also takes his horse back to the pasture when his session is over and some clients have developed to going and getting their horses and some even saddle, unsaddle and clean them.”

“Horses have a gift or unique power to touch and heal a painful place that another human being is often unable to reach. A horse does not talk back, complain, ask for anything, or expect anything in return. They do not judge or criticize or see a person with a disability as being different from others. The horse, being a social animal, has a natural ability to accept a person’s watch care and affection. They have a high tolerance for error, and they are patient, forgiving and compassionate,” Fogle said.

“Equine assisted therapy is generally defined as someone with special needs sitting on a horse as he slowly walks and moves the rider’s body in a way that replicates the healthy muscle movements of a person who is able to walk naturally. This in turn, strengthens weakened muscles and bones. The horse becomes the legs his rider does not have or cannot use. Riding a horse for thirty minutes is equivalent to walking 3,000 normal walking steps. When riding a horse, you use every muscle and joint in your entire body as well as both sides of your brain,” she said.

“Regular participants in this kind of program have been documented as showing improved balance, flexibility, and confidence to enhance their independence and life skills. Many times, gaining success or developing horseback riding skills inspires a person with a disability to try other things that he/she previously has found too intimidating,” Fogle said.

Finally, Fogle invited the club to partner in the Dayspring work with autistic and Down’s Syndrome children and adults, as well as victims of stroke and other head injuries and Veterans with PTSD. Through its work Dayspring TEC also provides its clients with increased trust, confidence, enhanced independence and improved life skills.

Dayspring needs volunteers who can offer their time and is grateful for monetary contributions (tax-deductible). It has many success stories and needs everyone’s immediate help to continue to improve the lives of its clients and its horses. Speaking of horses, there is an immediate need for them. Quarter horses are preferred, 12-25 years old, who are being actively ridden and have trail riding experience. Horses who are good with children, gentle and not easily spooked are the best match.

Fogle concluded with a reminder that Dayspring also has a ministry to those in assisted living/nursing care (even in the Alzheimer units!) “It is a blessing to see the facial expressions when Marigold, one of their smaller horses, enters a room,” she said.

Next week, the club will meet online and hear from Optimist Adam Adair who will share Optimist George Earl Bennett’s experiences from his World War II service diaries.

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