Thursday, March 22, 2012

Therapeutic Horseback Riding

About a month ago Nicole and I started attending therapeutic horseback riding sessions with Antorcha de Vida, the rehabilitation center for special needs children where we work weekly in the gardens. Working with and riding horses is said to benefit communication, motor skills, and social skills, as well as teach companionship, responsibility and confidence. The kids at Antorcha love horse therapy as well as the Captain in charge, an Ecuadorian military officer who has special needs children himself. They place their complete trust in him, letting go of their grip on the horse to clap their hands when he says to, and laying down across the horse’s back, eyes closed in relaxation.

On Thursday mornings after working in the gardens with the Ingeniero, Nicole and I help to pile the kids into the back of a pick-up truck and we travel together to the military training facilities where they offer therapy. Some of the kids need extra guidance and attention, while others know exactly where to go and can’t wait to get there. They take turns riding the horses around a big green field, trying different riding positions, waving their hands in the air, throwing disks to help with motor skills, or just hugging the horse to feel its body temperature. Nicole and I take turns walking around with the horses, providing extra support in case someone starts to slip. When we aren’t accompanying the horses, we hang out with the other kids who are waiting for their turn. Although they all enjoy their time on the horse they aren’t impatient at all, rather they sing and dance and make jokes, seeming to genuinely enjoy every minute. It is amazing to see some of the kids who can’t even walk on their own riding the horses without a hint of fear.

Last week we got the chance to share this experience with a few of the spring breakers from UGA. Margaret found the horse therapy to be especially rewarding (read her blog post by clicking on the UGA tab). Working with the kids at Antorcha has been a beautiful and rewarding experience. They are so free with their hugs and their trust, it is impossible not to love them.

Seeing the excitement on Shirly's face when we arrive makes what we do worth while

These girls always provide the entertainment, singing and telling jokes for everyone

Margaret providing extra support for Michael

Learning how to care for the horse is part of the experience

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