The Santos Family
4 Great Brothers…4 Even Greater Stories!
On Tuesday mornings, soon after our blue driveway gates swing open, our dedicated volunteer parking lawn fills with our team of “GO” Getters ready to start the day with an inspiring group lesson consisting of four great brothers, The Santos Brothers.
Ranging in age from 4 to 10, have quickly become a living highlight reel to our farm each week. The four boys began riding at Great Oak in May of ‘21. Since then, they have captured the hearts of our volunteers, been celebrated for their achievements by our barn staff, and manage to create moments of situational humor amongst themselves when here.
Over the months, we have been privileged to get to know their mother, Heather. In a recent conversation with her, she shared,“…it is an absolute blessing for our four boys to be able to ride together…for the first time all of our children were able to participate in one specific activity as a family.”
When the Santos family is on the farm, you can genuinely feel their close connection as brothers and love for each other. Watching them work as a team and support one another in their weekly lesson fills our hearts and supports the mission work that Great Oak strives for.
Heather went on to share that, “the Great Oak volunteers and staff have always been patient and compassionate with our boys. It’s a breath of fresh air to see other genuinely accepting and kind-hearted people. When sharing their knowledge of horses with our family, we as parents have been reminded that it’s okay to not always feel anxious about community interactions with our children.”
She went on to share, “that when our two younger boys, Samson and Sawyer, were able to watch their big brothers riding, it motivated them to keep going, when they were lost in the lesson session. Sioni, one of our older sons, has gained loads of confidence being able to be a horseback role model for his younger siblings.”
“And you can just see the joy on Sylas’s face, one of the oldest brothers, when he knows it’s time for horseback riding. Every time he sees it’s ‘Horse Day at Great Oak’ on the calendar, he gets the biggest smile and sits on the shoe bench in our home with his brothers waiting to be laced up! As a mother, I saw that he struggled for so long not understanding why he could not attend all of the same activities as his siblings. For him to now be able to gain that understanding that he CAN indeed have the same opportunities in life as his siblings, has been a blessing to be able to give him all because of Great Oak. And, in our experience, that is a very rare thing for families with multiple special needs children to have inclusive activities for all siblings.”
During their time here at Great Oak, their mother, Heather, says she has “watched our children grow to become more confident in themselves and their abilities and willingness to try new things. No one had to be left out due to age or disability. Not to mention the logistical convenience it provided my husband and me trying to balance activities for our four children. Therapeutic riding and Great Oak have given our boys an engaging and stimulating activity for our boys and my husband and me a sense of peace and hope as their parents.”
Continuing, Heather shared, “we often remind our children that they can do and overcome anything they want, as long as they keep trying and practicing. Just as they have shown themselves while riding their horses at Great Oak. There’s noticeably less rigidity now when they are attempting new activities because what they’ve learned through Great Oak is that maybe new things can be really fun!”
That is the mission work of Great Oak. That is why therapeutic riding exists and continues to demonstrate the true power of instruction and compassion.
From Eva Finnan, Lead Instructor: Sioni is the eldest brother of four. In the time that he has been at Great Oak, he has demonstrated such compassion and support for his brothers while they all ride together in the lessons. Often calling out to one or the other, “Well done Sawyer and Samson” He is an inspiration for good sportsmanship and brotherly love.
Sawyer is an active young man and always has something exciting to share with us. He loves his Monday and he told me, ” I really think Monday likes me a lot.” I agreed with him as they really do seem to have a nice partnership. Sawyer was disappointed one day not to ride Monday. He handled the change but I had to promise that the following week he would be back on Monday.
Samson is the youngest of the brothers and is quite quiet. He has that amazing posture that young children have and he is strong and confident. He enjoys grooming the ponies and has mentioned to us that “Jack is very dusty”
Sylas is the quietest of the boys. He does not like to stop walking as he enjoys the movement of the horse. He may not verbalize much but you can see in his eyes and body language that he is happiest when the horse moves out nicely and when we are outside.
All the boys are exceptional. They work as a team and support one another. When Sylas sometimes needs to dismount early the boys are quite happy to stop what they are doing and allow Sylas to dismount. They always tell him that he has done well.