Participant Stories

Violet’s Story

Violet turns 13 on November 13 this year, she is transitioning into high school at a mainstream Catholic High School called Domremy College, Five Dock. It’s a huge change navigating her way around the new school, but Violet likes the school and is connecting with teachers and peers especially those with similar interests. Violet had a great final year of Primary School, with her younger sister sang a favourite Sea Shanty in the School Talent Quest, amazed everyone with her Book Week costume (which included her riding boots) and performed in her drama group’s end of the year production, held in a professional theatre!

Violet has been attending Tall Timbers programs since she was 9 years old – she has participated in the Connections Program, School Holiday Ground Work, Social Skills Groups, the After-School Riding Program and the 2022 Mounted Games. She also completed a High School readiness workshop with Maddy the OT.

Violet was born almost 8 weeks prematurely by emergency caesarean because her and her mother’s life was threatened by HELLP Syndrome. Violet’s birth weight was 1230gms, a bright little baby, she spent 5 weeks in NICU at RPA coming home just before Christmas fully breastfed and with her mother’s wonderful care started to thrive. Although her baby milestones were later than average she was so very bright, would look intensely at people, was very affectionate with her loved and trusted ones and she loved books, before she walked she use to hold little books with her feet to look at them and then when walking would walk around holding one! She would remember every page an early talker she could name all the animals and plants and characters!

During her preschool years we spent lots of time finding things – shells, seed pods, rocks they all went into her collections. She could recognise tree species and remember the names of lots of animals and loved interesting facts…recently Violet said “I was a genius before I went to school.”

One trait Violet had was she would be frightened of all sorts of things the look of them or in case she hurt herself – although she loved the water – a large mural in one swimming pool stopped her from entering; the hammerhead was a very scary sprinkler at our local pool and the spikey seed pods at the end of our street both had to be avoided at all costs!

Violet was really excited to start school, kindy was fun but under the eye of the very experienced Special Education Coordinator it didn’t take long for us to discover Violet is Autistic with ADHD – we have never considered these as “disorders” but differences and traits …with superpowers that need to be discovered and harnessed. School was very difficult for this clever little superbrain – the stairs, all the children, the noise, the classroom, the demands…yr 1 & 2 were particularly hard, the sensory overload caused her to be dysregulated and regress.

Now we didn’t know much about Autism so the researching started!! Violet started therapies to help with core strength, balance and coordination, and fine motor skills. Violet enjoyed working one-on-one with her therapists. But we were very concerned about the effect of school on Violet’s self-esteem – she stated “her best was not good enough”, “she was a green gold fish”. From our research we learnt about Equine Therapy, just being with horses could have a calming effect and build self-esteem as well as help physically so that’s why we came to RDA Tall Timbers!

2020 Violet started attending after school classes with Nicole for her coach, I remember Nicole saying I’d like to offer Violet our Connections Program…I thought YES that sounds perfect…and it was!!  Although Violet was excited to meet the horses, at first, she was frightened – Nicole walked beside Violet speaking gently, no fuss manner but kind and accepting- not too many words, waiting patiently for Violet to respond – connecting, with an absolute conviction and confidence in the program, the expectation that ‘you can do it’ oozed from her. Violet walked to the paddocks, benefiting from the natural quiet environment and the bumpy grassy ground, dodging horses’ poo…she observed the horses’ behaviour in the paddock, she meet Nugget…she learnt to lead him, groom him and eventually led him without a lead…she loved Nugget! She brushed Karoo untethered in the paddock! A wonderful confidence building experience as well as building strength and coordination.

As the year came to an end Nicole started Violet on Mac – the mechanical horse – this was a pretty scary ordeal, so high to get up on to and getting down the hardest and scary but again the same confidence in success saw success! To our surprise Violet was now ready for riding lessons!

Her first horse was Mouse not too high and a perfect start, then Bella and now Daphne. The physical and mental challenges have been hard at times but with the “you can do it” attitude soaking in she now says horse riding is a sport she enjoys. She has built connections with the volunteer leads who walk and chat with her helping her to process the instructions and riding coarse, and coach Sophie ever effervescent, encouraging and interested, Violet happily chats to her and updates on her latest interests. Chanida, our horse whisperer often walked beside Violet during her lessons with her keen eye problem solving and helping Violet’s sitting posture improve. Violet now has her own riding boots -which she wore to school and impressed her peers and teachers – also riding britches and Tall Timbers T-Shirt! Violet is proud of her riding achievements!

2023 riding has been a bit interrupted with transitioning to High School and we were a bit worried about how riding could fit into her timetable, but it has all worked out perfectly with Violet being able to attend riding lessons without missing any school! She is excited and eager to continue her lessons this term, and when the time is right to be a Tall Timbers volunteer!

I am so very grateful for the support given to me too, often after chatting to Nicole she has said, “Have you heard of” and point us to a group which might meet our needs, so we have found a group called WeFlex who educate and match up personal trainers with clients, so Violet now has personal training sessions! Thank you, Nicole!

Thank you to the volunteers who are Tall Timber Treasures!

It has been the most wonderful experience, a privilege being a part of the Tall Timbers’ family, we happily drive the 50 mins to arrive at the friendly, accepting and inclusive little piece of paradise – Tall Timbers.  Thank you!
Maureen Richardson – Violet’s Grandmother