Saddling Up Ponies For Special Needs Riders

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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Jean Hamer always wanted a pony. "Of course, every little girl wants a pony," she said. "That's how this started."

Hamer rode horses in high school and in college, and in 1994 she earned a bachelor's degree in animal science from the University of Connecticut. But the hobby soon was put on the back burner when she attended Villanova University School of Law and embarked on her legal career.

Hamer has worked as a judicial research clerk in the New Haven and Bridgeport superior courts, as a litigation associate for the Bridgeport firm of Murphy & Karpie and for the Hartford firm of Cramer, Alissi & Fontaine.

These days, Hamer is an associate at the Waterbury office of Melick & Porter, a Boston-based firm focusing on insurance defense law.

"My practice consists of the defense of general liability, professional liability, transportation product liability, and wrongful death claims," she said.

Though she now has a busy practice, as recently as 2010 Hamer was unemployed. It was at that point she got back in touch with her equine past, volunteering at a therapeutic riding program in Somers. Such programs use equine-assisted activities to help people with physical, emotional or cognitive special needs.

"I rode horses in both high school and college so I wanted to continue working with horses in some capacity," said Hamer, who was disappointed when the Somers program ceased operations.

But Hamer caught on with Melick & Porter, moved to Middletown and in 2012 began volunteering at the Manes & Motions Therapeutic Riding Center in Middletown. She grooms horses at the center and generally gets them ready for riding. She also works directly with special-needs riders.

"I am there as the leader for the horse," Hamer said.

Some of the people Hamer works with have autism and have an easier time relating to animals than to people. Horses offer comfort to those with autism, she said, because "they're nonjudgmental, they're supportive, they're caring and they're loving."

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