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Whinny Whispers
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by Kerry Hurley

Grace comes in each Monday with braces on her legs and a smile on her face.  Usually that smile is chased by a glistening line of drool dribbling down her chin, but it goes unnoticed as her sparkly eyes take center stage.   Every Monday, Grace is slowly walked up the ramp to the mounting platform.   Sometimes she stops to take breaks because her muscles tire easily.  Sometimes Grace just giggles and ignores the painful rag-doll like feelings in her hands, arms, and legs.

You see, Grace has cerebral palsy.  Grace does not have complete control of her muscles or limbs, but that doesn't stop her from following her weekly routine of climbing onto "Apron String's" back and riding intensely for 30 minutes.  Once, she told me that those 30 minutes are the best thing she does all day.  The feeling of sitting high up on Apron's back, instead of mom pushing her from her chair or holding her hands as she walks, makes her feel "normal" and in control of her life.

Grace is 8 years old and still believes in Santa Claus and the magic of flowers in the spring.  Grace believes in fairies and gnomes and all that is small and mystical.  Grace says her favorite story is The Hobbitt because "the little man is different from everybody!...kinda like me!"  But still, Grace dreams of climbing trees with her brothers and playing catch with her dad and sewing with her mom.  Right now they are only dreams because holding a needle or catching a football are things she simply is not able to do.

Grace is having a good lesson if she only drops the reins five times.  And she is very proud if we must tell her only a few times to "tighten those muscles up" and "make them do their fair share of the work".  And she does - pulling hard at her insides.  Grace uses every ounce of strength she can gather to pull tight and sit up straight so she won't hurt Apron's back.  Grace knows what it is like to have bruised kidneys, so when Ms. Barbie, her riding teacher, says to "post a trot", Grace asks us to help her lift her "butt off the saddle so that Apron won't have to go to the hospital".  She does not think of her own painful aching muscles, but of Apron's strong supportive back.

No longer do I look at Mondays as the beginning of a week of torture or annoying algebra teachers lecturing on Pythagorean Theorem.  Monday is the day when I go and see Grace.  I go and help Grace learn to ride.  I help Grace feel like she's on top of the world.  Monday is the day when I go and muck stalls, groom dirty horses to make them shine, tack 'hand-me-down' saddles on to borrowed horses, and help handicapped children find themselves as a person in a world of appearances and judgements.

Every Monday, Grace's smile makes my day come to a close just the way I hope it always will.  Every Monday I go and see a remarkable 8 year old do brave and amazing things with a wise and strong horse.

Monday......Monday, I go and see "Amazing Grace held up by Apron Strings". 

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