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A Horse Named Roger

By Kate Storjohann, Lead Instructor, Marianna Greene Henry Special Equestrian Program

Roger at the 2016 Alabama Special Olympics being ridden by a student from Helen Keller School of Alabama.The staff at Marianna Greene Henry Special Equestrian Program (MGH) are always on the lookout for horses with a “therapy heart.” These are horses with the unique spirit needed to be an equine partner at MGH. “We look for calm, quiet, willing horses who will take care of our students during classes,” said Kate Storjohann, Lead Instructor at MGH. “They have to be respectful of their leaders, accepting of unusual toys and activities, and have a demeanor that inspires confidence in the riders.”

One special member of the MGH herd embodies all of the qualities that are necessary for the equine therapy  — a 25-year-old Paint named Roger. In November 2015, MGH staff traveled to Art and Lynda Estrada’s farm in South Alabama to meet Roger. Within 10 minutes, it was clear he was destined to become the newest member of the MGH herd.

The year after Roger joined the MGH herd, he and a student from Helen Keller School of Alabama traveled to Troy, Alabama, to compete in the Special Olympics. The Estradas also traveled to Troy to see their former horse compete. “I was thrilled that they were going to be able to see him with our students,” said Storjohann. “The first class had just started when they arrived. Looking up into the stands, I saw Lynda start to cry as she watched her former horse taking baby steps as he took care of the little girl on his back.” 

That day, the Estradas gave MGH a donation of $1,500, which was the amount MGH paid for Roger the prior year. That donation allowed MGH to purchase another horse for the equine program: Sven, who is also a Paint and a beloved member of the MGH herd. “We came just to watch our horse compete, but the students captured our hearts,” said Art Estrada. “We didn’t know MGH when they first came to buy Roger, but after seeing what they do, we know he is in the right place.”