Only a very few months ago I was pretty wary of anyone with a mental disability, and usually someone with a bad physical problem as well. I didn't know what to say, how to act, what to do... So I just tried to stay away from them. I was also kinda nervous about talking to anyone I didn't know. Now I can walk up to people and just say hi, or introduce myself and be confident about it. And I am way, way less nervous around people with disabilities. There are real, sweet people under that outer disability that everyone (including me!), looks at first.
I love the horses there too, of course! Most of the time I am a horse leader in the lessons, but I have been a sidewalker a few times. And, being one of the people that volunteer there actually having a bit of horse experience, I've gotten the job of doing groundwork with a couple of the horses before the kids get on them. I really enjoy that! I am going to see if I can work with another horse that has been cheating on the riders lately, too.
It is a great, non-profit therapeutic riding center. And it does some things that other therapeutic riding centers don't do, like letting the kids tack and groom their own horses (with supervision and help when needed!), when they get up far enough to that level. A lot of riders will never make it that far, but it really helps the riders that can do it practice their fine-motor skills and their strength. It gets them closer to their horse. We try to let them have as much independence they can that is safe. And of course there is that risk of the riders getting hurt doing that sort of thing, but every precaution is taken and the results are worth it!
It's so cool to be there when a child experiences his/her first ride, first trot, first obstacle, first new skill, first anything. And the funny things they say! One boy I was leading was weaving the cones and he said, "I am doing the mastery of coning!" And another little girl always calls the gelding she rides, "BubbaJJ". That's a mix of the names of her horse, Bubbles, and her sister's horse, JJ. She also calls him a "Good girl" a lot. And this is a really funny one: The instructor told one of the kids to weave the cones and he mumbled, "As long as they're stay puffed...stay puffed. The stay puffed marshmellow man!"
So, I just really really love doing this and I'm wondering if any of you volunteer somewhere? If so, I'd like to hear about it!