February 24, 2011

Autism and Horses

My coworker came out on Sunday to bring his grandson Brandon out for a ride on Willy. Brandon is 6 years old and autistic. He loves horses and other animals. Rich has told me about him going out to another friends stable to have him ponied around on her old gelding but it’s been cold lately and they haven’t gone out, so I invited him out to see Willy since there is an indoor arena.

The day was really windy so I was glad that I had access to the indoor arena. I got Willy groomed up but kept going outside to check if Rich was out there wandering around lost…so it took me longer to get Willy cleaned up. Rich showed up as I was picking Willy’s hooves. I gave him a brush to see if Brandon wanted to learn how to brush a horse. As Brandon loved on Willy I worked on the other side wrapping his legs in the polo’s. Then I put the saddle on. I had Rich go sign the release Susan had left out for him to review for Brandon and also to look amongst the helmets for one that fit Brandon well. Then up went Brandon!

We led Willy around the indoor arena, Brandon sat like a little pro! My stirrups were as short as they could go but I wanted to figure out how to make them shorter even since Brandon kept trying to put his feet in the stirrups…he knew what they were for! The gal that leases Ladybug came over and showed me an old trick, wrapping the stirrup leathers around the iron. It's been so long since I worked around kids and horses …it's also been a while since I was a kid and needed to get my stirrups that short! It’s a good trick and I cannot believe I’d forgotten it! Once that was done I think Brandon was much happier.

Towards the end of the ride Brandon was getting a little antsy so I asked Rich if he thought we could try a little trot. He said sure. It was a mistake though. Brandon didn’t have much to grab onto in the English saddle so he jammed his little fingers. I felt horrible! So did Rich but we didn’t know.  I really enjoyed being with Brandon...it took me back to the days in middle school and high school went I worked with my mother at the therapeutic riding program in Leesburg, VA.  Next time I’ll borrow a western saddle so he had the horn. I’ll just need to learn how to cinch it up!
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After the ride Rich took Brandon to visit the little ponies and I rode Willy around the property. He was acting pretty spunky and when asked to canter he took off along the side of the arena almost at a gallop. This irritates me because he just ignores my commands to slow down. I worked him in small circles and doing neck flexes and releases to get him mind back on me. We then did some trotting around the arena and he seemed to calm down a bit. It just seems that horses get frisky when it’s windy!
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Rich headed back home with Brandon. I continued riding inside. Willy didn’t want to canter in the indoor arena so I got down and free lunged him. He cantered, it didn’t seem like the area was too small for him. Maybe I should work on that with him! I was pretty much done with the day, the wind and chill just didn’t make me happy so I called it a day. It was fun to have Rich’s grandson come out and get some joy riding a horse around. Hopefully we can do it again sometime! Only issue is I think I’ve decided I’ll be ending my lease with Willy by April and starting to lease Pstar!!! Since she’s young and untrained I wouldn’t want to lead Brandon around on her for quite some time. Not sure how she’d react. Well, leasing Pstar is another blog entry all together!

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