Monday, September 16, 2013

Back to the barn
Trail riding around the pasture at Saddle Up Riding Club.

Saturday was the first class for the fall season. With highs in the 90’s, it seemed anything but fall. The front ring is not shaded, so temperatures are often several degrees higher. Still, there was a beautiful feeling as students arrived with their families. They greeted friends with high fives and shoulder hugs. Parents shared stories of the summer and first days of school. The horses lowered their heads to nuzzle the children. In return, they received hugs and pats and I saw at least one kiss on a velvet nose.

This place has breathed new life into my son. At age 12, and newly diagnosed with Asperger’s, he hated to be outside. He was a bit small for his age and very sensitive to sound, sunlight and anything touching him. At school, he hated recess! He could usually be found in the shade talking to the teachers or at a table reading a book. Participating in a game with other students often left him angry and sometimes in trouble. So he preferred to avoid it altogether.
Then came therapeutic horseback riding.
Kyle ready to ride.
The summer before we started, we were on vacation with my husband’s family. During a quiet time, I was sharing with a cousin how sad I was for Kyle. I told her about his struggles and how getting a diagnosis didn’t seem to be of much help. She suggested horseback riding.

How on earth could I afford a horse! I knew there were horses in our county, but could not imagine how much lessons would cost. She went on to say that there were programs for special kids that he may qualify for. So when I returned home, I did an internet search. Kyle started riding in October that year.

After a year of riding, Kyle had changed completely. I don’t think I realized how much until I paid a visit to the playground after lunch one day. There was my son, playing football, happily, by choice. I turned and went back into the building and watched through the glass. I didn’t want anyone to see my tears of joy and think something was wrong.

Now almost 3 years later, he loves to run. Even as a teenager, he loves to play chase games with younger kids. He goes to the gym to work out with his dad and run on the treadmills. I recently picked him up from a friend’s house covered in dirt from swinging on a rope swing and landing in a dirt pile. His meltdowns are not
gone altogether, but we can usually link them to a lack of sleep, extreme change in schedule or a poor diet choice. What is even better is that he usually figures them out himself.
Hercules and Kyle saying Hello.
Back to Saturday, Kyle’s horse greeted him in their usual way. It almost seems like a mutual benefit between Kyle and his horse, Hercules. As he licks Kyle’s hand, it helps him calm down. And who knows, maybe Hercules is benefitting from the salt on Kyle’s sweaty hand. Regardless, that horse will lick his hand until Kyle pulls it away.
While waiting to ride, there are other animals to visit. Pigs, a miniature horse, goats, rabbits, 2 turkeys and plenty of chickens. Families can also walk through the barn and visit the rest of the horses. Out in the back arena, there are more types of donkeys than I knew existed. They are new to the barn and very sweet.
A sweet little hen and her baby, who has also grown!

Our friend Gina on Danny Boy.
In spite of the heat, everyone was glad to be back. Since the arena was so hot, we trailed through the pasture instead. I was blessed to be the photographer for the day, so I walked along snapping pictures under the trees. The horses were excited and distracted by the grass. But it was a good day.
As the weather cools I know the sessions will be even more enjoyable. My handsome son is now taller than me.  I can’t wait to see what this year will bring.
Kyle on Hercules
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
To learn more about therapeutic horse back riding, please visit the link below:

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