I am not a huge animal person. I like them, but I don’t have a burning desire to be around them. With our son’s acceptance into a hippotherapy clinical trial, I have found myself in barn, in 90+ degree weather, once a week. This will continue all summer. Was I scared to let him get on a horse? Not really. Should I be? Maybe. But he wears a helmet, there are therapists on either side of him and a wrangler behind the horse (lucky job, eh?) holding reins. He is three and a half. He cannot yet walk without assistance. The purpose of this therapy is to utilize the natural gait of the horse to improve the rider’s core strength.
Now, to backtrack just a bit, our son has a difficult time transitioning from one activity to the next. His perseveration is mild, but it has its hold on him for those brief moments that feel eternal while he screams. What he needs is time. Time to prepare, and time to digest what is coming next. A solid distraction, such as music or something that will make him laugh, is usually helpful once the new activity starts.
So as with all of his therapy sessions, he starts by screaming and crying, begging me to pick him up, call daddy, give him something to drink (yeah, me too kid) and generally carrying on. Once he has completed the move from me to therapist(s), horse, etc., he eventually stops crying and settles down. His hippotherapy O/T measures success in how many tissues he goes through (or not) each ride. Last week, we actually had a zero tissue ride. First. Time. Ever.
I enjoy watching him while he is in a session, but stay back just enough so he doesn’t see me and pitch a fit again. I breathe a little, but not a lot. In a barn. Swatting flies. “Cough, cough.” What did I just inhale?? I have some time. I play a few games on my phone to distract myself and calm down. Horses are pretty stinky. My little boy thinks the horse pooping while he’s riding is the funniest thing ever. I see him laughing in the sun, shiny tears on his pudgy, smiling cheeks, his infectious giggle floating across the dust and hay. Before we know it, the ride is over. For him, time flies. For me, well, I had time WITH flies. I’m not a fan of hanging out in barns, but I’d breathe barn air every time and eat every fly in sight if it means this boy will walk.