Today I arrived at the barn at 9:45 a.m. – I awoke feeling thrilled to have the opportunity to get up early and go out to the farm. I felt much less nervous than I had the first time I was scheduled to work as a sidewalker – just like anything else, it gets easier the more you do it! I was also very excited to meet our riders, who I had been told were quite a bit younger than the adults I work with on Thursday nights.
Once again, volunteers had already been hard at work earlier this morning, grooming the horses and putting out tack for us to use. I was secretly pleased when the instructor Helen assigned me to the same horse I had walked next to on Thursday; a retired racer named Ceeray, he is a prince, and stories of his tolerance in extreme conditions preceded our first meeting. After getting our horses ready and the rider up, we went through an hour-long class that was brimming with fun activities that kept the riders, horses, leaders and sidewalkers engaged.
In addition to all the regular stuff that makes up a riding lesson (warm up, rail work, practice turning, etc.) we also had a “race”! Next, we played “musical stalls” to see who could guide their horses into a makeshift “stall” before the music stopped, and finally we played a “favorites” game in which we tossed a ball between us that has various words written on it, including things like animal, teacher, food, etc. The object is to name our favorite item that is associated with the word closest to one of your thumbs when you catch the ball. It was during this game that I was able to catch a glimpse of what makes a therapy horse different—at one point the ball collided with the back of Ceeray’s head and bounced off, landing in front of him on the ground. Unlike any normal, self-respecting flight animal, Ceeray merely glanced at it, hardly even flicking an ear! What a miracle!
After my second day of working in a class, I can feel myself starting to get hooked… I mean, really hooked! I can only hope that my hectic schedule will continue to allow me to make time to experience the magic that happens when horses and people come together for therapeutic riding—long after my internship is over!