The Sense of a Horse

Ronan riding with his mother while two people lead the horse.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.


2 thoughts on “The Sense of a Horse

  1. We started riding when the the girls were 3 mainly due to their immense fear of all animals. It took 6 sessions to go from just touching a horse without screaming or recoiling with fear to finally sitting on one and riding around the arena. My girls eventually started riding with an RDA group and it built their confidence with animals up immensely, as you mentioned it did wonders for their posture. They now attend a ‘normal’ riding group as they have outgrown the RDA ponies and absolutely love it. They trot, canter, weave through poles and attempt small jumps just like all the other children, all the instructions are given verbally and the girls just do it. They now want to learn to jump higher jumps and would love to take part in a Point to Point race when they are older. The thrill of riding fast and being in control of the horse I think is what they love, and despite having a few falls they both just get up and carry on.

    It’s something I would recommend to anyone to try, I never thought I would see my girls on a horse, but it’s really worth a try. X

    • Hi Sharon

      I totally agree!

      Scarlett has too really took to horse riding and it is something I am going to peruse further with her. The donkey sanctuary was our first encounter and Scarlett and her brilliant adaptation skills meant that just after a few short minutes she was very content on the donkey.

      Thanks for sharing Cecily 🙂

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