Being Differently Abled

Horses and humans have co-existed for centuries. As a person who studies horses, I have observed most horses always want to help. Some of their behaviors may not appear helpful, but in the big picture, they are providing clues to our problems. As Mr Rogers once said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” This same wisdom can be transferred to horses.


As a PATH Therapeutic Horse Riding instructor who works with children, I always try to find horses who have a willingness to learn. Some horses have a natural gift and learn with minimal instruction. Tully, a eight year old Connemara pony, fits in this category. He is a kind pony who recently found a new owner and new home. His quality of life improved dramatically. Not surprising to horse people, Tully has gratitude for his new situation.

I started my journey at Windrush Farm. My mentor, Jenna, taught me the fundamentals of facilitating the interaction of horses and humans on a healing level. With much patience from the horses, I have learned over time to let the horse do their job with minimal interference. Tully instinctively knows he is working with little humans and is responsible for their safety. Funny thing is that Tully does not distinguish if the little humans are disabled. He sees the little ones as “differently abled”. Why can't big humans do the same?

In a recent lesson during warm-up exercises, I asked a young girl to extend her arms out to the side and let go of the reins and grab strap. She was hesitant. I could sense that, and so could Tully. He slowed his walk ever so slightly. I asked if she could extend one arm instead of both arms. In an instant, she let go of both hands and extended both arms. She smiled. Tully exhaled a breath.

The connection between a horse and human offers many benefits like this moment. The rider learns how to be present and build confidence with being differently abled. Society determines who is normal and who is not. If you remove society's definition of normal, you remove all disabilities. Horses can teach us this basic principle: Do what you can, not what you cannot do.