Youth Forward Scholarship 2017 – Horses Understand

Name: Jordan Lacey Parker
From: Inman, SC
Grade: 12
School: Culver Academies
Votes: 0


There were flies everywhere.
This was typical though; the Saturday afternoon heat at the stables
attracts flies like nothing else. I was there with my partner Missy,
a gentle chestnut quarter horse, used for beginner lessons at the
stable I ride at. Together, we help children with disabilities
through hippotherapy and listening therapy. A little girl named
Maddie, wearing her listening headphones, stood next to Missy,
stroking her gently with the brush to clean her coat. This movement
not only helped prepare Missy to be ridden, but also helped Maddie
practice her motor skills. Maddie has Asperger’s; she was not
always aware of others, and noises, textures, and smells bothered her
greatly. Missy and I were there to help her learn how to develop
proper responses to issues when they arise. The supervising
occupational therapist had given me exercises she wanted Maddie to
complete. It was my job then to incorporate them into our riding
routine and Missy’s job to help Maddie accomplish these tasks.
Missy flicked her tail, aiming at a fly that was tickling her side
and hit Maddie’s arm in the process. Maddie screamed in surprise
and anger, staggering backwards and throwing her brush with a loud
Missy moved away uncomfortably, warily eyeing Maddie. “It’s ok,”
I assured both the mare and the little girl. I explained to Maddie
that Missy was just trying to get the fly off of her side and didn’t
mean to hurt her. With the help of the occupational therapist, we got
Maddie comfortable enough to resume grooming.

Maddie and her therapist met with
Missy and me every Saturday for two years. At the beginning, Maddie
struggled to balance on Missy at the walk. Many times I felt Missy
move her weight to catch Maddie’s teetering body as I walked next
to them, holding Maddie for support. Sometimes, Maddie would throw
things or scream in frustration, making Missy nervous. By the end,
Maddie was aware of how her actions affected Missy. She was careful
not to yell or throw anything, and moved slowly and gently around
Missy. She could even sit balanced on the horse, without the horse
having to swing her weight to catch her. Maddie and I became friends
too. She told me about her improving grades in school, the new
friends that she made, and the whole movie she was able to sit
through at the movie theater. Maddie really loved working with Missy.
On the day of our last session, Maddie looked at me and asked “Can
I come back and visit you guys?”

course you can! We’d love to see you again.”

smiled. She turned and hugged Missy’s leg. “Thank you sweet
girl.”  Maddie was only one of the children Missy and I helped
in our time volunteering. Missy and I are not therapists. But
together, Missy and I taught-and still teach-disabled children about
what it means to have a friend that loves them for who they are.

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