Quite the Engagement Ring
It all started when Emin was teaching a riding class and saw this lovely young lady who would become his pupil. Senada's beauty startled him. And soon a love blossomed built on a foundation of their joint love for horses. Although she traveled to Pennsylvania for a year to become a certified therapeutic horseback riding instructor, these two were meant for each other.
|Emin, Senada, and their son Isa. Son #2 should be arriving any day now.|
|The lodge and part of the barn. The barn is one of the few wood structures that we have seen in Bosnia. Emin felt strongly about building it from wood although it was hard to get anyone to insure it.|
Riders of HopeMore on the horse "family" in a minute.
Emin and Senada's barn is home to three main components: a) Riders of Hope, b)Konjičko Equestrian and Recreation Center Pegasos (riding club and lessons) and c) Unlimited (camps and adventure activities). I want to talk about all three in order.
We found Senada because of Rider's of Hope. It was a miracle, really. Dionne and Senada almost immediately recognized how much they needed each other in their lives. With assistance from the young missionaries, Dionne has been teaching therapeutic riding lessons since we arrived here.
|This was our first time working with Tarik. He has high energy and enthusiasm but limited physical control of his body.|
|Epke is curious about this mysterious device.|
|We required two large side walkers and Elder Echols and King served nicely...let's just say Sister Martineau did not make the cut!|
Sister Martineau and Rougeau side walking with one of our regulars, Aren. Notice Martineau's smile and Rougeau's "non-smile." She's concentrating hard on not stepping in anything as she walks. (Love ya Mary!)
|Sisters Higlee and Locey hard at work.|
|Elder Echols working on the sensory trail...a little obstacle course that riders do on horseback.|
|Aren showing his skills.|
Esma's 22nd birthday was this week and she invited us to join her and her family for ice cream in Bašćarsića. I spent an hour talking to her younger brother and learned that he does short-track speed skating during the winter. I am resolved to go watch some short-track racing once the season returns.
|Esma had us take this selfie with her family.|
Esma is the rider that Dionne has worked with the most. She is a wonderful woman who I consider a good friend.
|I noticed that there was not a single picture of me in this post. So I decided to sneak in this selfie.|
My name is Esma Zajimović. I am from Bosnia and Hercegovina, a small European country. Five years ago I survived a massive stroke. I was not able to move even my finger and I could not speak at all. Since then I have had to re-learn how to walk without any assistance.
|Esma riding Gypsy.|
Like every other individual whose life was stopped at one point and took other direction, I was looking for something that could improve the quality of my life. We 90’s children grew up with Disney movies. In each movie my hero was the horse and not the main character. I have been dreaming about riding horses like Pocahontas, Merida and Mulan. During my rehabilitation I found information about hypotherapy here in Sarajevo offered at a horse barn called Riders of Hope. I contacted them immediately and scheduled an appointment.
|Prepping to ride.|
When I first arrived, I was afraid of getting on the horse. That day my task was to brush the horse I was going to ride. When I came in front of the horse, I have started looking in his eyes and all I saw was love and encouragement. When I first got on the horse, it felt magical and I didn’t want to get off. Every rider has a horse and so do I. My horse’s name is Gypsy. He is a Bosnian mountain horse. He has showed me another dimension to life; he gives me hope.
|I find Gypsy cantankerous...Esma finds him charming.|
|Esma preparing to compete at her first dressage show.|
|Aren waiting for his turn to compete. (not until he gets his helmet on!)|
|After the show wearing her medal.|
|To the victors go the rewards.|
"Nothing Worth Having Comes Easy"Riders of Hope is just one small part of a much bigger riding community at Pegasos. Just as impressive is the riding club, Pegasos, which they operate. As Senada tells it, she never turns anyone away who is interested in riding the horses. Many cannot afford to ride. For Senada that is not an obstacle but an opportunity. An opportunity to work for riding privileges and lessons.
|The barn works because everyone "pitches in" including the very young.|
|I can hardly carry a bale of hay...she makes it look so easy.|
|Dionne working with one of the horses.|
|Gioelle and some of the other Pegasos Club riders leading ponies for camp.|
|The two coaches watching their prodigies.|
|I learned that you do not want him to "ring the bell" on you...that means you must stop because you've missed something.|
|Horses and riders all dressed up for the big day.|
|Rain or shine, snow or heat, they are there.|
|Dionne doing dressage lessons.|
The Pegasos family
Immediate family is important to Bosnians. Maybe even more important than in America. But Bosnians are willing to expand their definition of family. Friendships can also become "family-like."
|At dinner with Emin and Senada.|
And the Pegasos family is very close and very loving. It starts with Senada and Emin. But quickly extends to their partner, Tanja, and her boyfriend Alan.
|Senada and Tanja holding newborn Isa.|
|John readies the outdoor movie theater.|
|We've hired Ilia to shoot some of our humanitarian videos (see prior post)|
|The riding instructors.|
|Senada and Dionne talking barn stuff.|
|Isa enjoying his čevapi a little too much.|
And, of course, the animals are also part of this extended family. Certainly the horses. Part of Senada's problem is that she loves her horses too much and is unwilling to "retire" some who can no longer pull their weight. The other members of this family, however, are three large dogs (two belong to Senada, one to Tanja). They immediately make their presence known and are quite the characters.
|During the Winter months, the dogs and I spend as much time as possible in front of this fire.|
|Guess what happens to "other" dogs (including puppies) who try to take up residence at the barn?|
It's as if Girl's Camp was on Steroids and Lasted All SummerThe final component at Konjičko Recreation Center is camps. This is mainly run by Tanja. Birthday parties run all year. School classes and kindergartens visit the center on weekdays.
|A birthday celebration at Pegasos.|
|These kids usually do not know each other when they arrive for the week. But it all seems to work out.|
|Summer or Winter does not seem to matter. They just have fun.|
From Dionne: I'm so blessed to have these wonderful people and animals in my life! They keep me sane when things get hectic and recharged when I'm running on low fumes. I love every minute I spend at with this fantastic family away from home!