Open Arms Therapy (OAT) - Dalhart (TX) equine therapy for the disabled

Nicholas Gill

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We miss you Nicholas & family!  Best of luck to you as you move back to Reno, NV!  Keep in touch!

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The Gill Family 2011

Nicholas Gill - riding with autism!

Open Arms Therapy – Another success story

Nicholas Gill is 7 years old and in 1st grade at Dalhart Elementary School.  Nicholas has Autism.  Nicholas began riding with Open Arms Therapy (OAT) in 2009.   When his mother was asked how the program has affected her son, she replied:  ‘Nicholas is a very precocious little man and has his own mind about all sorts of things.  He has been able to learn and follow instructions much better since being in the OAT program.’  She also mentioned that Nicholas has become more confident as his riding ability has improved and his confidence shows not only on horseback but also in social situations outside the program.    Another positive change that she has witnessed is that his enthusiasm for other interests has grown and this continues to amaze her and Leon.   When Nicholas was asked what his favorite part of OAT was right now he responded, “… riding the little horse”.  OAT has a black Welch/cross pony named ‘Cricket’ that was donated to the program by Kathleen O’Shea of Blarney Stone Equestrian Center in Lubbock, Texas and it is this special pony that Nicholas is so fond of.   This little pony is the perfect size for a determined individual like Nicholas.  Nicholas loves to be independent and is now able to mount (climb into the saddle) and dismount (step down from the saddle) without the help of the ‘stairs’. ‘Nicholas is a crazy, wonderful, interesting and loving boy who just happens to have Autism too’ says Nicholas’ mother.  With the help of OAT his parents hope he will continue growing in his ability to overcome social and emotional challenges.   Meanwhile, Nicholas is a pleasure to have in the program and as anyone who has assisted with Nicholas in riding session can tell you; ‘watching him overcome challenges and watching his confidence and ability grow is truly something that makes a person smile!’

Nicholas’s parents are Leon and Christine Gill.  Leon Gill moved to Dalhart in December 2008 followed by his wife Christine and son Nicholas in February 2009.  The Gill family moved to Dalhart from Reno, Nevada when Hilmar Cheese Company began operations in Dalhart.  Leon is an Employee Relations Specialist at Hilmar Cheese Company. Leon and Christine both grew up in small towns in northern Nevada.  Moving to the big city of Reno to attend college was quite a change.  Both of them graduated from the University of Nevada in Reno; Christine with a BS in Textile and Apparel Merchandising in and Leon with a BA in English in.  Christine recalls the transition of moving to Dalhart.  Christine says ‘I was so sad for my little man’.  It was hard on Nicholas to come home from school and not have his Dad there.  During that time the family would remain connected using Skype, an internet technology that allows people to talk and even see each other over the internet.  Skype enabled Nicholas to see his dad over the computer.  It wasn’t the same as seeing him in person but it was ‘pretty good’ according to Christine.

Nicholas is a proud big brother to Travis Ray who was born in December of 2010.  According to Christine ‘Travis has added so much to our family and we feel so blessed to have two wonderful boys’.  The Gill’s were blessed even further when Christine’s parents, Garry and Kathy Thielen, moved to Dalhart from Battle Mountain, Nevada after her dad retired.  According to Christine, ‘They are a huge part of our lives and having them move to Texas to be with our kids is such a joy’.  It is Garry that routinely takes Nicholas to OAT session on Monday nights while Christine is home with the baby. 

The most important ‘hobby’ to the Gill family is spending time together as a family.  Leon and Nicholas take advantage of the nice weather and they go on hiking adventures down in the canyon.  The family also enjoys an occasional trip to Amarillo for some fun in the ‘big city’.  Christine enjoys making hand beaded jewelry and creating one-of-a-kind beaded pieces.  ‘It is definitely my passion and has kept me busy between the boys and family’.  Leon enjoys running and is planning his first marathon in April.  The marathon is in Oklahoma.  ‘Leon is a wonderful writer’, says Christine, and he continues to pursue that passion when he has time.  The Gill’s love our small town of Dalhart and are especially amazed by the care, concern, friendly and helpful nature of the people who live here.

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Nicholas Gill riding Cricket

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Nicholas Gill riding Cricket

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