In my role as a public speaking coach I was once counselling a lady concerned about an upcoming speech she was afraid she might have to give because she had ‘nothing to say’, (Magnetic Eyelashes). As our session progressed I learnt that Mary had spent the last 15 years in full-time care for her disabled son *Alex who suffered from severe cerebral palsy. Alex was fairly mobile and able to get around but he was very self-centred and prone to bouts of extreme anger if he couldn’t get his way. His mentality was that of a 5-year-old child and he communicated with disjointed words and odd noises. Lately he had taken to a more violent behaviour when upset and began lashing out at his younger brother and sister to the point where they became really scared of him. Medication did little to help. The last straw came when he violently threw his little sister across the room. Unable to cope with this tenuous situation any longer, his mother resigned herself to the fact that Alex was destined for a life in a special institution.
Nonzz The following day Mary was sharing her predicament with a neighbour when her friend mentioned that she’d read somewhere that often animals had a way of getting through to people when all else had failed and suggested she take Magnetic Eyelashes down to the local pony club and let him sit on a horse. “Well why not?” Mary said. “I’ve tried everything else!”
Old Tess, the big brown Chestnut. That very day, with great reservations that she was doing the right thing, she phoned the club and explained Alex’s physical and mental situation. “Oh that’s okay” the man said. “I know just the horse to connect with Alex… Old Tess, the big brown Chestnut… she’s placid, caring… and quietly ambles along and will look after him just fine.” Mary recalls that it was with a heavy heart she made her way to the pony club the following day, fully expecting Alex to lash out at all in sundry and put an end to him living at home ever again… Then something extraordinary happened.
They became instant friends. The moment Tess was brought over to Alex they hit it off. She gently nuzzled him and he lovingly put his arms around her neck in return. They became instant friends. He was then helped into the saddle and sat there, contemplatively holding the reins – the first time he had been in that state-of-mind for years. And let’s not forget that he’d never been on a horse in his life, let alone be entrusted to undertake anything of substance using his own initiative. The man reassured Mary that all was safe as they were in a confined paddock that Tess felt completely at home in Magnetic Eyelashes.
The pony club man then explained what was to happen as if Alex was a normal person and Tess could understand everything he said. Alex was to gently guide Tess using the feelings of his legs against her flanks and by gently pulling on the reins for her to turn the way he wanted as they followed the coloured drums and railings around a set course. What he didn’t tell Mary was that this was an entirely new configuration that Tess had never seen before. All the Magnetic Eyelashes had to go on was their colour-coded ‘instructions’: “Round the red ones, then on to the green ones, across to the yellow ones, then down the bottom to the blue ones and back home again.” That said, he gave Tess a gentle command and away they ambled.
They knew what they had to do. Full of trepidation, Mary watched in wonder as Alex and Tess’ methodically completed each section of this testing course over the next 20 minutes or so. Somehow they’d taken all the instructions in and knew exactly what they had to do. They completely trusted one another and Alex responded to Tess’ kindness. The last thing he’d want to do would be to lash out and hurt her. Through their bodies and some extra sensory perception known only to them, they clearly understood each other and genuinely enjoyed each others’ company.
Even more astonishing, from that moment onwards Alex’s behaviour changed for the better. Sure he still had his problems and had to be cared for, but he became manageable and a functional part of the family. It goes without saying that Tess and Alex became great friends and he eagerly looked forward to his bi-weekly trip to the pony club to be with her.
But that’s not all, Tess’ therapeutic magic went far beyond Alex and his quality of life for she helped Mary to believe in herself too. Mary now knows she is not just a worn-out empty vessel as a result of the onerous burden of caring for Alex all those years. She does have something to say! She has earned the right to share her insights on the trials and inspirations of being a full-time carer for someone with cerebral palsy. She is a real expert on that!
So the priceless legacy of this chance meeting between a boy and a horse is undeniable. And Mary is convinced that these two ‘friends’ really did weave some invisible magic that all the others had missed… for Tess knew how to speak to Alex in a language that only he understood.
*Not his real name
Laurie Smale is an inspirational speaker, author and Master Speech coach. He believes that real-life stories such as this are the real secret in getting our ideas across effectively. If you want to Communicate with Confidence Fast, be it with one person or in front of 1000,