Big smiles, high fives and lots of clapping!! The new children from KGVI arrived yesterday morning full of energy and eagerness. We hosted eight children, who were between five and eight years old. As this was the first time that they were riding, we spent a little extra time introducing them to the horses and helping them find their balance.
It never gets old seeing how quickly they find it! The research all says that sitting on a horse mimics the motion of our gait, that our hips move in a rhythm that should feel familiar. So even for some of these kids who struggle to walk and regularly lose their balance on the ground, sitting on a walking horse feels natural enough for them to relax, hold themselves upright, and start looking around at the world from that different height.
Yes, some of them notice sunglasses and want to try them on! And others notice the camera and follow me with their eyes as I circle around them, happy to be the subjects of a photograph. But they also let go of the reins, lift their hands high above their heads, rotate their bodies from side to side and willingly bend double to hug their ponies, the faces buried in thick manes. It’s work without feeling like work. It’s work that actually is fun. And you can see it in the joy on their faces.
Junior, a young boy with cerebral palsy, found the morning difficult. He can’t raise the bean bag we’ve given him to his head. He doesn’t have the coordination and flexibility to move it around his body, to reach behind himself and swap it from hand to another. Towards the end of the session, his legs start trembling from the unaccustomed exercise. But he still managed to smile back at us. And I like to think he got off his horse feeling strong.
Bridget has spina bifida, a developmental disorder where the vertebra along her spine remain unfused and open, allowing a part of the spinal cord to protrude through the opening in her bones. She makes it onto Lightning, and does a series of exercises, displaying remarkable coordination compared to the others, repeatedly throwing a ball into a plate, accurately judging distance. I wonder how much can we really help her. Are we really changing anything for her in the long term?
Time will, of course, tell if and how we help Bridget. This was after all her first session. But its good to know that regardless of what we do for her in the long term, in the present, in the half hour that she sat on Lightning and did her exercises, she enjoyed herself. She had fun. As did the others. They were outdoors. They were on horses. And yesterday morning that felt like it was enough.
Volunteers on Wednesday
- Sandy Paul
- Joeleen Sissons
- Francis Randell
- Cynthia Coetzee Louw
- Shanon Follwell
- Tracy May
- Stacy Smith
- Chantel Reyneke