Horses and Down Syndrome riders - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 24 Old 10-06-2015, 07:50 PM Thread Starter
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Horses and Down Syndrome riders

I certainly wish that I was not new to this forum for this question because it has such a possibility of being taken the wrong way...but, nothing ventured. Please be willing to trust it's a serious question.

I'm quite sure that if I researched the topic, I could find no end of horror stories, but what I have found, heard and seen without research is one hundred percent positive and so:

What do folks with Down's Syndrome or serious developmental issues have to teach me about being around horses? I seen both children and adults do things with horses that would get an experienced rider or trainer a one way trip to the hospital and yet, the horses (particularly experienced horses) exhibit extraordinary patience and forbearance with them. They will forgive things that would be, for other riders, unforgiveable.

I suspect that no one can give me an answer that is much more than speculation but I'll settle for that. Again, let me stress that I'm looking to learn, not denigrate. There are teachers all around me, and I'll not discount anyone, despite their apparent handicaps. Fact is, these folks have something I want.
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post #2 of 24 Old 10-06-2015, 08:37 PM
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Mammals in general are particularly forgiving of youth. You'll see foals and wolf pups and lion cubs get away with things that their adult counterparts could never do. Domesticated animals also often let children get away with things that they do not tolerate from adults. There isn't an equivalent to Down Syndrome in the animal kingdom and I imagine that animals may accord humans with developmental disabilities the same indulgence that the accord to children and puppies and foals.

That said, it's not something you can count on. It's a really bad idea to let children or developmentally disabled people do dangerous things around animals and just trust the animal will put up with it.
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post #3 of 24 Old 10-06-2015, 09:15 PM
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you are not the only person to see this phenomenon of how the helpless are so good with horses. makes me a bit jealous, frankly.
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post #4 of 24 Old 10-06-2015, 09:22 PM
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I used to have a cow horse mare of old cutting lines. She'd get super "hot" when she was allowed to work cows; she truly loved her job. One day when I was at a team penning competition I left her tied to the trailer while I went to the restroom. When I came back I saw a little boy, maybe 2 years old, sitting directly under her belly and behind her front feet. He was happily pounding on her hooves as if they were drums. No parents anywhere to be found. The mare was standing perfectly still with her head twisted under herself to look at this strange little creature. I very carefully retrieved the boy and took him to the announcer to find his parents.

Do I think the kid had some sort of special "connection" with my mare? No. Animals just show tolerance where it's due. Sometimes. Maybe with a different horse or on a different day, the kid might have been killed.
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post #5 of 24 Old 10-06-2015, 09:32 PM
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When I lived in Maryland, a family who lived near me had a Down Syndrome son. His horse was a spirited Arab named Strawberry. Joey rode with us all the time and never had a moment's problem with Strawberry. If any of the rest of us rode her, including his very skilled experienced teen aged sister, we got a very exciting fizzy ride. But she was calm and quiet for Joey. I saw it hundreds of times.
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post #6 of 24 Old 10-06-2015, 09:39 PM
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I have a mare that is like that. She is a nasty witch for an experienced rider. She will the most talented rider on the ground, she is sneaky and evil yet when you put a beginner or a disabled person on her, she is an absolute saint.

I don't understand it... I just know that she is lucky she ended up with me instead of the glue factory because I would never have discovered the angel hiding inside that wicked animal!

"Be a best friend, tell the truth, and overuse I love you
Go to work, do your best, don't outsmart your common sense
Never let your prayin knees get lazy
And love like crazy"
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post #7 of 24 Old 10-06-2015, 09:54 PM
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Two stories. Neighbor boy 5, with Downs, got into the horse pen. Moments earlier the two mares had been cutting it up, play fighting. The moment he was on their side of the fence they stopped moving while he investigated them. His frantic mother scooped him out of there and as soon as they were out, the horse continued with their play.

My good trail horse would not tolerate anyone standing directly in front of his face. To do so resulted in a strong nose thrust to back you out of his space. A man with a mental disorder was brought for a visit. He had to be told almost everything he needed to do. At first he was hesitant about the horse that was behind a chest high steel gate. The man then moved closer, normally too close. I was right there to correct the horse if I tho't he was going for the nose shove. So far, so good. The man raised his hand as tho to place it flat on the horse's face, between his eyes but he didn't close the last inch. Not sure what the guy was looking at, his hand or the horse but he stood like that for about 5 min and I was seeing a connection between them. Perhaps his hand was tired so he backed away. He was the only one who got away with standing in that horse's face.

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post #8 of 24 Old 10-06-2015, 09:57 PM
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I've seen it too. When I was a teenager, I had an ex-cutting horse with a lot of "go." She was well behaved, but I had to power walk to lead her. (I didn't consider it a problem and never tried to train her to slow it down.) My school had a fundraiser "fair" for the younger kids, so I brought her and a trainer at my barn brought a pony for pony rides. My favorite teacher's little 3 year old daughter wanted to ride the big horse, NOT the pony. That mare walked so slowly, I couldn't believe it. She had gotten tired of walking around with the bigger kids, but she had amazing patience with that tiny girl.
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post #9 of 24 Old 10-07-2015, 04:50 AM
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Two of the school horses I ride are very naughty with older children and adults (bucking, nipping, reversing and kicking other horses...). The both have sensitive mouths and don't tolerate mistakes on that front. Well, put a small child on them, reins a-flapping, and they are both good as gold.
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post #10 of 24 Old 10-07-2015, 06:04 AM
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Can I speculate & say it's congruence of emotion/behaviour that allows 'innocents' without an agenda to 'get away with' stuff and be treated gently by horses. Won't go into a long story, but coming to appreciate that has really changed my relationship with horses. Then I read a book 'The Tao of Equus' which (while IMO a bit 'fluffy'...), gave me some confirmation of that feeling.
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