Therapeutic horse riding lessons are not all about riding a horse. The primary goal is to facilitate connection between the student and the horse. This can be achieved directly or indirectly. Connection is not always about being in close physical proximity. It all starts with a thought.
I am working with a younger student who has autism. When we first met, I asked if he could share his interests. He gave me a long list of superheroes that he likes. I noticed he was wearing a very cool pair of Spider-Man sneakers when he arrived at the barn. Out of nowhere the thought appeared, “why not make superhero riding boots?” So that is what we did. First, the student designed a prototype. As we worked on this new design, I asked, “do you think the horse will like the superhero boots?” It is subtle but important to remind the student that he is going to wear these boots and then get on a horse.
After he finished, we talked about the process and the steps necessary to reach his goal. Not only was he sharing the boots with the horse, he was sharing his creation with the community. These were his boots! We talked about creating a new factory for making superhero riding boots. This led to the question, “would you like to make superhero riding boots for others in the barn?” He looked at me for a second to make sure that I was serious. Then without hesitation, he said “yes!”
This is one of the Jedi secrets for all of us to remember. If you want to learn something, teach it. If you want to receive, give. Makes no sense to the brain. Makes perfect sense to those who have experienced it.
On a quiet morning, I hung the sign in the barn, “Custom Designed Superhero Boots. If interested, please leave your name and number.” All it takes is one person to change the stale status quo that limits all of us. One sweet woman who works at the barn was the only person to have the courage to put her name on the list and donate her boots. When the student saw this during his next lesson, he was in shock. Even after we started to paint, I had to reaffirm that it was okay to paint the boots.
Nothing happens in isolation. Horses don’t live in isolation and neither do we. All it took was an idea, a sign, some paint and a pair of boots. Strap on your boots and go teach something so you can learn.