Thursday, August 29, 2013

Horse Love

They call it hippotherapy, I call it horse love. Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved to ride and have wished for a pony. Growing up, my neighbor had one and that was almost good enough. Up on that pony with nothing but a bridle and my knees to guide us through the fields, I was transported into heaven on earth.

When Kimani was first starting physical therapy as a four month old floppy doll, I never imagined she’d be riding a horse five years later. This summer, I jumped at the chance to give her hippotherapy and crossed my fingers that she would be cooperative enough to be allowed to continue it. And of course, if Kimani is getting something, Miss Masha’s gotta have it too.

So, three weeks ago, my husband and I took the two girls to their first hippotherapy session... or rather let’s call them riding lessons. I had prepped Kimani by having her try on a bike helmet and bribing her with cookies to keep it on, without much success. I prepared Masha by having her watch youtube videos of children riding horses and telling her that she was going to have a turn. She seemed truly excited about it.

When we got to the barn, Masha was totally into putting on the riding helmet and belt, diva that she is... but Kimani wanted no part of that and spent the better part of her session taking it off and trying to grab handfuls of the dirt/straw floor to mouth on. Masha was willing to go look at the horses but refused to touch hers, and freaked out when they tried to get her up on it. She was visibly terrified.

Eventually they ended up tossing Kimani up on her horse and leading her around the ring with two adults holding her in the saddle. She protested loudly and continuously threw herself to the sides trying to get off. One time around was all the strength her PT and the helper had, and later I was told that they would not be able to work with her like that.


Masha’s therapist was more encouraging and told us that sometimes it takes 4 or 5 visits just to get a kid to stay on, and that next time would likely be better. To her credit, Masha did get on her horse just long enough to wave at me and yell, "Yeah baby!" before she insisted on getting back off.

The second week Masha was with me on vacation in Tennessee, so it was Kimani and daddy who went. My husband called me and told me that Kimani did a whole lot better but from the blurry pictures and video-in-need-of-too-much-editing, it seemed like she only did a little better and that might have been because they played "Call Me Maybe" for her the whole time. She did seem to enjoy feeding her horse a treat at the end.


This week I took both girls. I had a feeling it would go well because when I told Kimani that she was going to ride the horse, she willingly let me put her shoes on and ran to the front door. Masha said, "horse, horse, horse" all the long way there. But still it shocked me how they both got right up on their horses and stayed on for the whole time. Kimani sat upright and did not even try to mess with her helmet. My heart was so swollen with pride I thought it might explode. At the end, they asked Kimani if she wanted to be all done or have more, and she signed more.




And now I am back to wanting a pony.


Lisa said...

So cute! Cate has a "therapeudic riding" lesson this weekend. She is horse crazy and has done pony rides before so I know she will be all about getting up on that horse. For us it might be more a matter of getting her to listen to the instructor instead of just telling them what she wants to do.

Deborah said...

Love! We went to a ranch this summer and rode horses for a week - came back home and the kids were clamoring for more riding opportunities. I told my husband I felt like such a *girl* - I kept talking about how pretty all the horses were. I don't even know if there's a hippotherapy place in our area, but I hope so.

Deanna said...

oh my word that is so adorable. I'm glad it's going well for you! I've been wanting to try this with Addison- but probably not until next summer.

vicsped said...

This is such a beautiful thing, hippotherapy. Every child who could benefit should have access to it. Thanks for the lovely post! Glad they adjusted so quickly!

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