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 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
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.
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
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.
"The first day was smiles and a tentative approach as Gary
was concerned Ranger would be afraid of his
new American Shetland Pony Ranger have become a great team
is looking forward to driving and competing Ranger.
joined forces to find the perfect driving pony for Gary, a cancer survivor who is a member of
Driving for Surviving, a Pediatric Equestrian Carriage Driving Program for Life, in New Jersey.
Thanksgiving had a special meaning for Gary Johnson
of Orange this year.
When a petite pinto named Ranger came his way this month, the 17-year-old cancer survivor finally got the special animal he'd been waiting for since January.
"I was able to communicate with him very easily," said Johnson
, noting the fact that he
uses crutches didn't faze Ranger.
got a whole new perspective on life from the seat of a carriage after he
took up driving under the auspices of the sharingVillage Driving for Surviving program for children who have suffered from cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
heart was broken last winter after Boxcar Willie, the pony with which he
'd had show ring success, had to be put down when he got Cushing's Disease.
took a lot of time from his
own business to help me out," said Johnson
"I'm thankful for everything that has come to me. Right now, I'm kind of in remission," added Johnson
, who no longer has to undergo painful spinal taps.
For Dover, the new Canadian dressage coach, an introduction to Johnson in June was a life-changing experience.
can only watch that process, noting, "it's hard for me to balance, I won't be able to do that.'' But once he's
in the carriage, he
said, "I'm ready to go.
, one of the students at the Driving
for Surviving program part of the SharingVillage Cancer Survivor Group
in Far Hills New Jersey was to have performed during the event, but the relentless rain caused the program to be cancelled.
"That is when Gary and the program director Shelley Zlotkin came into the tent for a visit, and asked if we could help him find a pony," said Phelps.
, who is also a recipient of funds from the Equestrian Aid Foundation
, got a huge boost when Robert Dover published Gary's story on doversworld.com
had lost his
other pony to Cushing's disease, and was unable to participate in the programs held daily at the beautiful facility dedicated to the program.
"I knew Johnny Robb, media director of the American Shetland Club was on the hunt and trying ponies, but time was running out for Gary to begin practicing for their upcoming event to be held at Gladstone, October 11.
, who has Cerebral Palsy and is also a cancer survivor, was ready and waiting.
As soon as Gary
picked up the lines it was as if they had been a team forever.
has a natural talent, and Buddy softened to him right away.
I knew there was nothing to worry about, for either Gary
or my pony!
Next week I am bringing him to New Jersey to donate his
services for then next two months to Gary Johnson
, an amazing young man I met during the National Dressage Championships at Gladstone who was featured on DoversWorld.com
is a part of a wonderful program called Driving
has Cerebral Palsey, and the driving pony he
had so much success with sadly had to be put down.
of East Orange takes a mini-horse for a spin during a practice session with Driving
Like many 16-year-olds, Gary Johnson
of East Orange has a preoccupation with driving.
But the Essex County Vo-Tech senior's fixation doesn't involve getting his
Johnson's kind of driving is done in a carriage behind a mini-horse or pony, and it has changed his
deals with cancer and cerebral palsy, involvement in the sport has both brightened and broadened his
participates with the sharingVillage Driving for Surviving
pediatric equestrian program several times each week at a Bedminster stable, when he
can put his
crutches aside and be just another horseman.
Focusing on driving has helped him deal with recurring medical procedures, including chemotherapy and spinal taps.
explained, "I wasn't so stressed.
When I come here, my mind is clear; I'm not thinking about problems I have elsewhere.
I'm focused on one thing and I don't have to focus on other things.''
An orphan who lives with his
came to the attention of East Orange school nurse Mary DeStefano several years ago.
went to a polo match and ran into Shelley Zlotkin, one of the founders of Driving for Surviving
, and then watched the organization's young drivers give a demonstration, DeStefano thought it would be a perfect opportunity for Gary
was willing to give it a try, but he
wasn't certain how it would turn out.
Driving for Surviving continues to offer opportunities to Johnson, who also works as an intern at the sharingVillage office in Peapack.
There are a number of high-profile horse people trying to help Johnson
and other Driving for Surviving
members, meanwhile, are taught by former top driver Sharon Chesson.
Paula Duva, a volunteer from Mendham, was watching the other day when Johnson was working with coachman Will Hick, who is employed by Driving for Surviving board of managers member Teri Piancone and her husband, Lou Piancone, of Bedminster.
Handling the reins was 16 year old Gary Johnson
, one of the four Driver-Survivors representing sharingVillage Groups.
projected confidence as he
cruised around the imposing Grand Prix jumps with Sammy, a 13-year old brown and white pinto gelding that appeared even smaller alongside the imposing six foot jumps.
, 15, of East Orange, NJ carried a special passenger in his
Beezie Madden, a member of the United States Equestrian Show Jumping Team who will be representing the U.S. in Beijing in August, rode along with Gary
maneuvered the carriage pulled by a striking black pony named Box Car Willy.
Most of the miniature horses and ponies in the Driving
program, including "Willy," are either donated or on loan to the program.
They are all well trained and very experienced, many having been former show ring champions.
"Willy," held the title of Reserve World Champion Driving Pony and competed all over Europe.
, who has been part of Driving for Surviving
for about three years, admits that when he
started in the program he
was "kind of nervous at first.
Like most of the children in the program, ranging in age from 6-16, he
had never really been around horses or ponies before.
recalls starting out with a miniature horse named "Rocky" who quickly gave him confidence.
"It's really easier than I would have thought," he
admits, "and a lot of fun.
A sophomore at West Caldwell Essex Vocational School, Johnson
has encouraged other children to join the program.
"It's not just the driving, but also the brushing, combing the manes, and all that kind of thing that we learn," he
has definitely learned well as he
now competes in driving shows with "Willy.
At a large show last summer the pair "got 3rd place out of all