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A Mother and Daughter Bond

My daughter and I visited Pine Knoll Farm for a vacation in April 2002; we left having experienced so much more.

I met Bruce during our first evening at the farm. “Teach a horse to fish, allow yourself to fly” he said and set my imagination racing and created a desire to share some of the passion that emanated from him. After an entertaining conversation, I jokingly said that perhaps we should have a session in the round pen. Lo and behold, the very next morning, there we were!

However, before I continue I should tell something of our story.

Just 10 months before our visit to Kentucky, my husband and I adopted Jane* from her native country of Russia*. She was 22 months old and we were her fifth placement. This difficult start in life understandably left her with some challenges.

Jane is fundamentally a brave and beautiful person with a kind, giving soul. However, for her to survive, she had to develop certain behaviors to protect herself. For example, she is very engaging with strangers on a superficial basis, but finds it difficult to form deep relationships or trust anyone – after all, she was abandoned every time she “let someone in”. She does not easily take instruction and has an overwhelming desire to control any situation. She is also very easily over-stimulated and her powers of concentration are limited.

So . . . back to the round pen – mummy somewhat skeptical about the whole exercise, Jane totally oblivious and enjoying the attention. Her initial reaction to Bruce was a little surprising – she usually charms “the socks off” adults with her little routine of attention-seeking behaviour – but, perhaps because Bruce required something of her and would not be swayed at her attempts to divert his attention, she was not at all sure of herself. Once he persuaded her to enter the round pen, it took only a few moments for her to become totally immersed. I felt the tears well and a silly grin stretch from ear to ear as I watched her clinging to Bruce’s fingers, listening intently to his instructions and trying her hardest to comply. I repeated over and over to Gill, “she’s only 2 ½ years old you know”. For me it seemed like a small miracle to watch her face open up and to focus so completely on this wonderful little pony named Nono, forgetting everything but what she was doing right there and then. Once he had her attention, Bruce, the pony and Jane worked together for at least ½ hour, all of them engrossed and in tune with one another.

The next day was a different story – this time, Jane had fully decided not to go anywhere near Bruce, the pony and definitely not the round pen, again I think because Bruce was such a challenge to her. In his intuitive and gentle way, Bruce let her be and finally, in her own time, she came to him and willingly started to work. It was even better the second time – Jane found the confidence to independently lead the pony, doggedly following a track of circles and figures of eight that Bruce etched out for her in the sand. By the third day, her confidence securely established, she rode bareback, again independently, on the pony – excitedly calling out to anyone who came within hearing range “look at me, I’m riding Nony”. All of this may not seem too extraordinary to anyone else, but, for the first time with someone other than mummy and daddy, Jane let herself just “do” and just “be”, she had no barriers up and found that she was still safe.

That week, Jane without any prompting, suddenly burst out with “I love you mummy”, it was music to my ears. She has begun to play more imaginatively, 10 months ago she didn’t know how to play – usually she is the horse and one of her toys is given a piggy back ride. I feel the experience helped her to show her emotions as she is much more sensitive and gets easily upset. We are closer and she can tolerate and give more affection, in fact she seems to crave it

Without needing to ask, Bruce understood my little girl and also, through her, something of me. He gave me his honest opinion and advice that will lift us through the bad times and help us to enjoy more of the good times. Thank you Nony and thank you Bruce. We look forward to renewing our acquaintance.

* Name and country changed for sake of privacy.



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