“One of the benefits of therapeutic riding is that it temporarily removes individuals from their wheelchairs - in which people literally look down on them - and moves them above everyone else, forcing others to look up to them for a change.” Delphi M. Toth, Ph.D., ‘The Psychology of Women and Horses’
Reading this article over the weekend brought back fond memories of when I worked at a barn with an annual two-week-long Adult Equine Therapy program. It was a lot of work on everyone’s part to get an invalid’s wheelchair up the ramp to line up with the back of an amazingly patient and unflappable horse. Once we put the chair’s brakes on, it could sometimes take up to three of us to lift a person onto the horse’s back, taking great care to keep both horse and rider comfortable. The individual would wear a special belt for the assistants walking on either side of him to hold onto and keep him anchored in the saddle. I would usually be one of the assistants who led the horse as we would slowly walk circles and serpentines in the field, playing follow the leader in a beautiful parade of up to a dozen horses and happy passengers.
You could tell by the look on their faces that these people who had to live mostly sedentary lives were having the ride of a lifetime. And as Dr. Toth commented, they were elevated over absolutely everybody for a change. After fifteen minutes we would help those who were getting tired dismount, and that required as much effort as mounting. But it was worth it to them, as they returned day after day to go through it all again. I had one rider who, after being asked if she wanted to get off, said defiantly: “No. I never want to get off.”
I thought of her as I glanced at my phone while riding Tara today, and saw I had just enough time to get my chores done if I started them right away. But I never want to get off. I love the view from on top of Tara’s back and look forward to looking down on creation every chance I can take.
(Photo courtesy of Jessica Kelley)