Testimony written by Ally's mother, Mara Deutsch, March 2, 2014
My family and I live on the east coast, but we are immensely lucky to spend a month of our summers with family in western Montana. My sister and brother in law own a small, family-run organic farm in Hamilton. It is an incredibly healthy and peaceful environment. I could not consider myself any luckier with our situation until we met Lori Conner. Let me explain why.
My husband and I have two fabulous children - an eight year old active, happy and 'typical' little boy and a fun - loving, silly, enthusiastic but not so 'typical' eleven year old girl. Ally is deaf and wears bilateral (both ears) cochlear implants which allow her to listen and speak. She also has some developmental delays and is somewhere on that hard to pin down autism spectrum. When she is joyous, there is nothing like it, but when she struggles with something, she lets you know. Tantrums, rigid behavior, occasional physical outbursts. Overall, she has low muscle tone and less stamina than some of her peers, but she is an incredibly and busy girl balancing school with other activities like piano lessons, tennis, and swim lessons.
We had heard about the benefits of therapeutic riding, but we had not found the time or opportunity to fit it into our schedule. When we finally did try out some therapeutic riding, we had a disappointing experience. The program had a limited staff and could not provide a teacher after only a few lessons. Ally loved the riding, and she knew she wanted to pursue it further. Thankfully, a friend in Hamilton.
Lori has a unique philosophy which drives her lessons from day one. Step by step, Lori facilitated a beautiful partnership between Ally and Cody, her horse. Lori taught Ally how to 'read' Cody's language and appreciate the nuances of her communication. She made sure that Ally thanked Cody throughout the lesson for sharing her time and energy. Ally participated in every step of the process - before, during and after the riding lesson. In this way, Ally build a trusting relationship with Cody, and we could see her growing confidence level.
Lori thought of every detail. She always had sidewalkers to ensure safety. Lucky for us, one of her amazing, kind husband Paul. She minimized distractions for Ally. Ally loves dogs, but Lori kept her dogs away during her lesson, yet she always found time for Ally to play with her dogs after her lesson. She knew that Ally thrived on praise and went out of her way to share successes with her. At the end of our time in Montana, Lori created a beautiful certificate for Ally, and provided us with a full account of her lessons to share with a therapeutic riding program back home.
We saw clear results from Ally's time with Lori and Cody. After each lesson, Ally was chatty, but also focused in her conversation. It was an interesting (and appreciated!) balance on enthusiasm and calm. Overall, she developed more core strength and better balance. She felt confident about horses and riding, and she was excited to share that knowledge with friends and family. Ally felt like the expert she had become, which did wonders for her self-esteem. We all fell in love with Lori, Paul, and Cody and cannot wait to return to Montana to further Ally's progress and build on these beautiful relationships.