Thursday, March 26, 2009

Those who help others...

A friend of mine owns a couple of horses. I was bemoaning the fact that therapeutic riding programs (for special needs children) were few and far between, expensive, and often had year-long waiting lists. She brightened and said, "He can ride my horse." I was thrilled. When I explained to my autistic son what we were going to do, he was beside himself with anticipation.

We had an unseasonably warm February day. As we drove west to the stable, the air was almost warm in the Blue Ridge mountains. We received permission from the stable owner to use her resident Shetland pony for my little guy's first riding experience. She was beautiful and brown and her name was Minnie.

My son's attention and speech increased dramatically as we groomed her. He delighted in feeding her apples, sugar cubes, and knobby carrots. He asked questions constantly but did a great job of controlling his excitement over his new experience. He asked me a question so softly that I had to bend down and ask him to repeat several times. Finally, I got it: "What's her last name?" By virtue of the owner, we dubbed her Minnie Smith. It was official.

Then came time to ride. He was stiff as I lifted him and placed him in the saddle. He kept his arms around my neck and made little nervous squeaking sounds. I peeled his arms away and stepped back a bit. He grinned from ear to ear as she shifted around.

We led the pony partway up the side of a nearby mountain (a relative term in the Blue Ridge) and stopped at a bench someone had placed at a rise. My son puttered through the dead, dry grass and leafless trees as we basked in the sun. He was at such peace in nature and with an animal nearby.

We returned to the stable and headed home. As we drove, my friend confided in me that she had been experiencing an emotionally difficult time. This was her first foray out of the house in a week. I was dismayed that I was unaware of her struggles. But when she turned to smile at me, I saw the same joy reflected in her face as I had seen in my son's. The pony, the sunshine, and the camraderie all made for a wonderful day.


aniC said...

just reading that makes me happy.
it's been a long time since i've been able to go horse back riding, but it's seriously the best. it's so great that he'll get a chance to do it!

Nicole said...

You made me tear up!!! This was really beautiful. Thanks for sharing it.

Melinda said...

Maybe a picture? I'm glad your little guy enjoyed his adventure. I hope he gets a lot more.