Elf the little grey pony

Shetland pony Elf showing children the power of resilience

THE Shetland pony who miraculously survived being dragged behind a car is now teaching children the power of resilience.

The pony, named Elf after the sickening attack at Murphy's Creek on Christmas Day in 2010, is now the cheery mascot of Equine Learning for Futures, an organisation which helps children at risk of disengaging from school by teaching them life skills through interaction with horses.

He personally presented six Rosewood State School students, who recently completed the eight-week course, with their certificates at a graduation ceremony at Walloon yesterday.

Facilitator Kaye Pace said the ponies taught children to self-regulate their behaviours. Teachers and parents say the program has changed their lives.

"When they first arrived here the children were loud and full of energy," Ms Pace said.

"Horses respond very quickly and in a very sensitive way to people's energy. If someone is too bold, the horse will leave and show their dislike of the situation. So the kids learn to bring their energy down and that transfers to the classroom.

"They have been working together for the past few weeks and have had a noted improvement in their collegial performance at school."

Mother Tammy Spires, whose 11-year-old son Dylan Janezic completed the program, said she had noticed an improvement in his behaviour.

"He's definitely settled. They teach the kids to be calm and he now thinks a bit more before he does things," she said.

"He's learnt to groom a horse and is dying to ride one. It has opened him up, he now wants to be a jockey when he grows up."

Rosewood State School special education teacher aid Debbie Dawson said the program empowered students.

"They're subdued, they are communicating and working together as a team - it's a blessing," she said.

The organisation saw startling results after working with children in Grantham who had lost loved ones during the 2011 floods.

Ms Pace said there was something special about the calm environment horses create.

"All of a sudden these children began to talk to each other about their experiences and what happened during the floods," she said.

"The chaplain, counsellors and psychologists said we couldn't get them to speak their experiences at school until now."

Elf the little grey pony now lives comfortably in Redland Bay.

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