16-Year-Old Cancer Survivor Receives Shetland Pony with Help from Robert Dover

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16 year-old Gary was gifted a Shetland Pony by Robert Dover and sharingVillage
Photo courtesy sharingVillage.com

Thanks to dressage legend Robert Dover and the power of the Internet, a 16-year-old cancer survivor in New Jersey has a new best friend and confidant – an American Shetland Pony named Ranger. When a request went out to the equestrian community from the sharingVillage Driving for Surviving group to help find a pony for a young man named Gary, Dover joined forces with the American Shetland Pony Club and American Miniature Horse Registry (ASPC/AMHR) and found the perfect match.

Dover met Gary while at the National Championships at Gladstone and knew immediately he wanted to help with the search for a new pony. Dover used his voice by writing on his popular website about Gary and his quest for a driving pony. “Every once in a while someone comes into your life and reminds you of just how all of us were meant to be – loving, caring, giving, compassionate, resilient and forgiving,” Robert wrote about Gary. “Nothing in Gary’s demeanor makes one believe he spends even a minute feeling sorry for himself, though I would have thought it more than reasonable. This wonderful kid just wants to look for everything good in people and especially takes pride in his huge accomplishments as a driver.”

Dover shared the story that Gary had lost his most recent pony to Cushing’s disease, a pony named Boxcar Willy that Jim and Robin Fairclogh had donated to the program. With the setback of Willy’s death and Gary’s need for a new pony, Dover sent out a plea to the equestrian community. “I am absolutely positive we can all put our heads and hearts together and accomplish this goal in record time,” Dover wrote on his website.

In short order the ASPC/AMHR stepped up to help, donating a 13-year-old bay and white pinto Shetland gelding named Kid Rocket Ranger to Gary. Ranger already knew how to ride and drive and had been High Point pinto pony for his area in halter and driving.

“Robert conducted his own national and international campaign to find the right pony or mini for Gary.  We received calls from Europe and Canada due to Robert’s efforts,” said Shelley Zlotkin of sharingVillage Groups. “When Robert reached out to Mary Phelps, a member of the ASPC/AMHR, and Johnny Robb, Director of Marketing for the ASPC/AMHR, the rest was history. Robert has been our angel. He walked the walk when it came to his promise to this young man.”

Thanks to the generosity of the ASPC/AMHR, and the dedication of Dover, Gary and Ranger are now a team and getting to know each other. “They are doing great,” Zlotkin said. “The first day was smiles and a tentative approach as Gary was concerned Ranger would be afraid of his crutches. Of course Ranger could have cared less. Now they are best buds. Ranger is being ground driven by Sharon Chesson, coach of the USET Women’s Pairs Team, and our Equestrian Director Ellen Mitchel. We are saving for a cart so we can start driving Ranger as soon as possible.”

Zlotkin said sharingVillage’s Driving For Surviving program has 35 children and a long waiting list. “We are hope during the holiday season that the community will help us secure funding, equipment and other ‘special pony therapists’. This is our way of healing a child with a life threatening diagnosis.”

For more information on Shetland Ponies, visit their website at www.shetlandminiature.com or call (309) 263-4044. For more information on Driving for Surviving, a Pediatric Equestrian Carriage Driving Program for Life, visit www.sharingvillage.org or call 908-234-0334.

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