My daughter Summer has been riding horses since she was 4 years old. She loved horses since she was one. I think she rode every pony in our tri-county area because we took her to almost all the small -town festivals and county fairs within a 60 -mile radius. I believe this is why, when she was diagnosed with Autism, I gravitated toward horseback riding and therapeutic riding specifically in an effort to help her grow both socially and emotionally.
Initially, Summer began her journey on Good Boy, a sweet little pony who’s calm steady demeanor allowed her to safely interact and begin to develop a connection through grooming, then riding. Her instructor was familiar with therapeutic riding, having taken some courses in hippotherapy. She began to incorporate coordination and core activities into riding lessons, something Summer took to immediately. Very slowly, we began to notice a change in our little girl. She was less clumsy, more relaxed, and more outgoing socially. Although Summer has tried a number of other activities, including basic sports, music lessons, etc, one thing has held constant, and that is her love of and desire to be around horses.
Today, Summer continues to ride. I see her at her happiest at the barn. She takes pride in caring for her horse and initiates conversations with other children and adults when there. The barn is a place where everyone is accepted. Anxiety and stress from the day melt away, and Summer can be herself without fear; without needing to fit into a specific mold or expectation.
She looks forward to maybe one day working at a barn or helping with some of the therapeutic programs. Her confidence in her abilities blows my mind! I think to myself…wow! How does she do that? She can walk, trot, canter, and jump and has even had the courage to compete in a show! I don’t think I ever had that expectation for her, but I’m glad someone did! And I’m happy that she wants to share her experience and knowledge with others who most likely need what therapeutic riding has to offer.
- Stacy, Summer's Mom
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