Parelli member Sue Pratt posted this story as an update on Parelli Connect, and we decided it would be great to feature as a blog as well! Take it away, Sue:
I work in a volunteer capacity as a coach at my local Riding for the Disabled Centre. I am continually amazed and humbled by what I see our horses doing for our riders, and the mental, emotional & physical changes that I see in the riders. Here’s one little story, of a little change, that isn’t so little in one young girl’s life. I thought I’d share it with you.
One little girl (I will call her Mollie) who started riding with us this year has a lot of trouble with change, as do many people with disabilities. When she first started riding with us, she was paired up with a pony called Barney. It quickly became obvious to me that Barney was not the best match for Mollie. Barney is an Right-Brain Introvert, and Mollie can be rather exuberant with her actions, and Barney was struggling and tending to freeze up. I could see that Mollie would be much better on another horse, Zida, but Mollie had very quickly gotten attached to Barney.
I spoke to Mollie’s mother about changing to another horse, and the look of alarm on her mother’s face told me this was not going to be an easy transition.
With a little bit of tact and a large amount of cunning, we bought Zida in along with Barney, and explained to Mollie that Zida didn’t have anyone to brush or ride her, and asked her if she thought she could give her a bit of attention along with Barney. This she did happily. We then suggested that perhaps after she had ridden Barney, she could give Zida a short ride, so that Zida wasn’t left out. Mollie really enjoyed riding Zida, so then I asked her if she’d like to ride her each week and give Barney a rest, as he was getting a bit tired. Mollie decided that was a good idea, so long as she could still see Barney each week.
Whew, hurdle cleared!
Some weeks later, Zida had cut herself, and couldn’t be ridden that day. Once Mollie was assured that Zida would be fine – and had giggled at the snoring noise Zida was making (she’d been sedated while the vet stitched the cut just before Mollie arrived) – she went back to riding Barney for that day. Mollie could relate to Zida’s injury, as Mollie had got a cut on her forehead a couple of weeks earlier, which had also had to be stitched.
Today was the last week of term, and this morning some of the horses had been moved to the “holiday paddock,” a 100 acre paddock on the other side of the property where the horses are turned out for a break. Zida’s paddock buddy was one of the ponies that had been taken out.
Although she’d been given a new buddy, Zida didn’t cope with this change as well as we thought she would, and was stressing. It was obvious, as the horses were warmed up for the lesson, that Zida was not in a safe rideable state for Mollie. The rest of the class was ready to start, and we didn’t have time to “take the time it takes” and get Zida into a rideable frame of mind.
Gulp. Barney was not available to ride. I had an alternate suitable horse I could let Mollie ride, but this was unexpected change, with no easing into it. I took Zida over to Mollie and explained about how Zida didn’t like change, and that she was missing her buddy, and that I thought she was too upset to be ridden today. “How would you feel about riding old Daisy for a change, just for today, she doesn’t get ridden much and I’m sure she’d love a chance to join in the class? Zida just needs some time to adjust to having a new friend.” Mollie could relate to that, and to her mother & grandmother’s amazement, she said that would be fine, and off she went with Daisy.
This is only one little example of changes we see all the time. It’s amazing what being with these wonderful animals can do for children (and adults). We’ve seen children, who previously wouldn’t talk, chatting and telling us what we should be doing, and what we’re doing wrong! We’ve seen children in wheelchairs build up core strength and require less support. Children with tight leg muscles able to stretch and extend their legs more. Children who couldn’t focus, suddenly engrossed in an activity. Children who are always in trouble at school became well-behaved and happy. Children who were always fidgeting and couldn’t sit still became still and relaxed on the back of a horse.…..
…and one little girl who has learned to cope with change a little bit better.