- May 29, 2013
EAST COUNTY — He is curious. He is easy-going, and he is a glutton for attention.
Norman, an 11-year-old Haflinger pony, officially became the newest member of the family Tuesday, Aug. 28, at Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy (SMART). He joins 14 other horses and two ponies, including his mother, Carly, who has been with the therapeutic riding program for about seven years.
“He moved right in like he was at home,” SMART’s Volunteer Executive Director Gail Clifton said with a grin.
Clifton received a call from Norman’s old owner, Carol Walker, about three months ago.
“She called me and said she wanted to sell Norman, and she really wanted him to come here,” Clifton said, noting Walker also previously owned Carly, so she had seen pictures of Norman over the years. “(Carol) thought it would be the perfect place for him. I said I’d always wanted to get this phone call.”
Coincidently, later that week a representative of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County also called to notify SMART about a small grant program for which the organization might qualify.
“It came at the perfect time,” she said. “We don’t need more horses, but we did need another pony. We have so many younger kids, especially with autism, coming to our program.
“Norman is a perfect size for these kids,” she said. “Haflingers can really connect with (them, too). They’re friendly and especially forgiving. They can take a lot — behavioral outbursts, movement in the saddle, loud noises — better than our other breeds.”
Having an appropriately-sized pony also is imperative for the riders’ safety and helps ensure riders receive the maximum benefit from riding therapy, Clifton said.
Clifton put in a grant application for $4,250, and donor Phyllis Siskel stepped up to fund Norman’s purchase.
“The opportunity came up, and I like the mission of what SMART is all about,” said Siskel, who renamed the pony Norman in honor of her deceased husband. “(My husband) would so much love the idea that I was (sponsoring) the SMART program. But, it’s not about me. It’s not about him. It’s about the organization.”
Soon after Siskel’s donation, Norman was at SMART’s facility for a two-week trial.
“We’ve ridden him. We have driven him. We have used him in private lessons,” Clifton said. “He’s been stellar. It was a really easy transition.”
Clifton can’t wait to start using Norman in regular lessons, which are slated to resume Sept. 8, as long as the fields on SMART’s property dry up in time.
Norman, she said, is friendly, curious and people-oriented.
“Some horses will tune out human activity,” Clifton said. “Haflingers are very curious about the things people are doing around them.”
If someone is in the barn, Norman is the first to have his head out of his stall to observe his guest. If they don’t pay him any attention, he’ll bob his head or “flap” his lip to get some attention, Clifton said.
Norman shares many traits with his mother Carly. He has an, almost, identical whinny to his mother — one of the first trait SMART volunteers noticed. And also like his mother, he “chuckles” at riders as they dismount, and he turns around to look at them once they are on the ground, Clifton said.
Plus, the children especially love his long blond mane and tail, Clifton said.
“He really, really likes attention,” Clifton said. “He’s going to be an awesome therapy pony.”
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].