We decided to try horse riding to see if that might calm Ronan’s urge to rock. With some difficulty, we managed to find a person who approached the horse as a therapeutic engagement and was willing to work with Ronan at the tender age of 18 months. The experience was transformative. After nearly 15 minutes of screaming, Ronan took to the horse. At the end of the session, the therapist laid him with his head on the rump of the horse and he instantly fell asleep. Our therapist knew from this point that horses would be meaningful to Ronan.
Throughout the last 9 months, Ronan has gradually started to form an idea of what a horse is. Concept formation is really challenging for a blind child and Ronan has never shown an interest in other animals, such as dogs, as most small children do. Watching Ronan start to put together the pieces has been both amusing and revealing.
- Ronan learned first that horses have manes – that is what you are supposed to stroke. Rocking horses also have manes. Ronan soon started stroking the mane of the rocking horse.
- Horses have reins that Ronan can hold and control. When we tried to change the reins to smaller ones that fit Ronan’s hands, he refused to take them. It was clear he thought that the new ones did not belong to a horse.
- Horses have necks that you can lie against and still not reach the end. Ronan recently started getting on his push tricycle backwards, lying on the handle as he does on the horse and singing the horsey song. Horses are similar to tricycles.
- Horses make you taller than mum. When Ronan is astride a horse his head is higher than mine, which becomes obvious to him when I sing and talk. We tried Ronan on a miniature Shetland pony which is more the size of a large dog, he disagreed that this was a horse. He wanted to be taller than mum.
- Horses are very big. The look on his face when his hand reached nothing but horse as we took his hand from one side to the other suggested that he was astounded by the size.
- Horses don’t have noses. Ronan’s favourite body part is his nose. He touches his own nose and our noses. When we suggested that he touch the horse’s nose, his hand shot out in anticipation. He then starter feeling every which way. He did not accept that that big wet thing was a nose. He was most distressed that he could not find the nose.
- Most importantly, horses move and they move fast. That is the part he loves most.
I always thought of riding as expensive and something that one shouldn’t do. I was really surprised how transformative it has been for Ronan. It has improved his posture dramatically encouraging him to lift his head. It has calmed his need to rock and brings out Ronan’s cooperative side. Yet another entertaining adventure that Ronan brings to us.