'Odysseo' horses get friendly with sight-impaired children | SLIDESHOW

Dorian Escalon smiled, patted his chest and noted that there’s a special bond between horses and children.

The 21-year-old performer in Cavalia’s “Odysseo” is close with the horses he rides under the White Big Top at Marymoor Park, but the ponytailed Escalon saw friendship taken to a new level when the children from the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library spent time in the stables and training tent on Wednesday afternoon.

“They are so innocent inside them,” Escalon said of the kids who are sight impaired. “You can see the horse kind of give everything to them.” He likened the interaction to a dog cuddling up to its owner.

Escalon, who hails from Spain, added: “Horses really have a lot of feelings and they’re really feeling the energy of the people — everything which you have inside. If you are scared, if you are stressed, if you are happy.”

There were 11 ecstatic children on hand during the 90-minute event, which featured petting and feeding horses, sitting on saddles and finally, standing in a group as six horses and their riders circled around them. The horses started to walk slowly, but then the riders got them moving at about 30 mph, treating the kids and their parents to an intimate equine experience.

After the horses completed their show and moved to the side of the tent, 9-year-old John from Bremerton gladly took a seat to discuss the hands-on sensory tour.

“It was really interesting and I will come back tonight (for the show),” said John, whose last name was withheld for privacy reasons. He added that his favorite part was when the horses picked up their speed during the finale.

Jesper Ford, 11, of Renton enjoyed everything about the event, including standing on a saddle as Escalon discussed his trick-riding segment during the show.

Jesper’s mother, Debi, said that it’s vital for the kids to feel and smell the horses and get up close with the equine.

“They get to be important and feel a part of it. I think a lot of times, kids like this end up sitting in the back or listening to what’s going on,” Debi said. “I know one boy had his face up to (the horse) and I’m sure he could feel the ‘whoosh’ (of its breath).”

Forrest Neander, 13, who has limited vision and cerebral palsy, took a few minutes before he interacted with the horse who strolled up to his wheelchair. The Shoreline resident waved his left hand, tapped the horse and smiled.

“It seemed like something just clicked for him and he just really enjoyed it. He realized that he had this horse right next to him and he was really engaging with it. I love to see it when Forrest really responds like that and with so much joy,” said his mother Julia.

Danielle Miller and Mandy Gonnsen, director and youth services librarian, respectively, of the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library surveyed the scene at the training tent and were pleased with how they and Cavalia came together to give the kids a stellar day out with the horses.

Miller said the event allowed the kids “to use all their senses and access information that another child might be able to get simply by watching.”

Gonnsen added: “I think the families are really excited to be here. Being able to connect with Cavalia and the horses, but also being able to connect with each other.”


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