Every other week (fortnight) I spend a few hours volunteering at the Washington Riding Centre. I enjoy everything about horses. I don’t mind mucking stalls, grooming, tacking up or stuffing hay nets. My favourite volunteer job at the centre has been serving as a horse leader for the disabled riders. It is amazing to see the progress that equestrian activities have on a person’s mind, body and spirit.
The past two visits I have been privileged to lead a young man on his horse during his lesson. He is capable of sitting on a horse at both a walk and a trot. He is not interested in holding the reins or controlling the horse. He has difficulties both mental and physical but up on that horse, Strider, my friend is on top of the world. He feels tall and proud up there. He has learned to say understandable words like, “Walk On, Trot, Whoa and Good Boy Strider”. The students in this young man’s class are put through a variety of colourful obstacles. Multi coloured poles (cavalettis), blue and red boxes to weave through, buckets to reach into while mounted to retrieve colourful bean bags or balls are some of the fun challenges. The walls in the indoor riding arena are bedecked with fun dressage letters. A challenge for a rider may be to guide the horse at a walk from one letter to another. They ride at both a walk and a trot. Riders with difficulty balancing on horseback are surrounded with volunteer spotters on each side and more if need be.
Riding astride a walking horse simulates the same motion as walking for the rider. It moves the body side to side, left and right. A wheelchair bound person can enjoy the sensation of walking, jogging and cantering while aboard a suitable equine friend. It is wonderful to watch the joy on these student’s faces and witness their improvement in sometimes amazingly short spans of time.
Always a sunny day helping out at the Washington Riding Centre.
I first read this poem years ago. It is beautiful still.
I Saw a Child
I saw a child who couldn’t walk,
sit on a horse, laugh and talk.
Then ride it through a field of daisies
and yet he could not walk unaided.
I saw a child, no legs below,
sit on a horse, and make it go
through woods of green
and places he had never been
to sit and stare
except from chair.
I saw a child who could only crawl,
mount a horse and sit up tall.
Put it through degrees of paces
and laugh at the wonder in our faces.
I saw a child born into strife,
take up and hold the reins of life
and that same child was heard to say,
Thank God for showing me the way.
— John Anthony Davies