Who Can Ride a Horse?
If you’ve read any of my Keystone Stables books about Skye, Morgan, and the other children with special needs, perhaps you could identify with one in particular. But get your horse facts straight concerning who can ride a horse.
Are you someone whom society calls handicapped or disabled? Do you use a wheelchair? Do you have any friends who are blind or have autism? Do you or your special-needs friends believe that none of you could ever ride a horse?
Although Keystone Stables is a fictitious place, there are real special-needs ranches and camps that connect horses with children just like Skye and Morgan, Sooze in book two, Tanya in book three, Jonathan in book four, Katie in book five, Joey in book six, and Wanda in book seven. That special kind of treatment and interaction has a long complicated name called Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy or EFP.
EFP might include handling and grooming the horse, lungeing, riding, or driving a horse-drawn cart. In an EFP program, a licensed mental health professional works together with a certified horse handler. Sometimes one EFP person can have the credentials for both. Whatever the case, the professionals are dedicated to helping both the person and the horse learn to work together as a team.
Children with autism have benefited greatly because of therapeutic riding. Sometimes a child who has never been able to speak or connect with another person, even a parent, will bond with a horse in such a way that the child learns to relate to other people or starts to talk.
An author friend has told me of some of her family members who’ve had experience with horses and autistic children. They tell a story about a mute eight-year-old boy who was taking therapeutic treatment. One day as he was riding a well-trained mount that knew just what to do, the horse stopped for no reason and refused to budge.
The leader said, “Walk on” and pulled on the halter, but the horse wouldn’t move. The sidewalkers (people who help the child balance in the saddle) all did the same thing with the same result. Finally, the little boy who was still sitting on the horse shouted, “Walk on, horsie!” The horse immediately obeyed.
So, the good news for some horse-loving children who have serious health issues is that they might be able to work with horses. Many kids like Morgan, who has cerebral palsy, and blind Katie actually can learn to ride! That’s because all over the world, people who love horses and children have started therapy riding academies to teach children with special needs how to ride and/or care for a horse. Highly trained horses and special equipment like high-backed saddles with Velcro strips on the fenders make it safe for special-needs kids to become skilled equestrians and, thus, learn to work with their own handicaps as they never have been able to do before! I think that is very special, very special, indeed.