And That Is How I Learned to Ride Horses

Another Hatchett Job blog, horses, therapeutic riding, Creative Commons attributionI have always been drawn to animals, mostly the furry, mammalian kind.  Fish are cool and all, but what I really love is a critter that I can pet and cuddle with.  That has pretty much left me happy at petting zoos and with the traditional puppies, kitties, guinea pig, bunny kind of pets.

So, almost two years ago, when my oldest son with Asperger’s had the opportunity to receive 10 weeks of therapeutic riding instruction at a barn not too far away, we jumped at the chance!  While he rode and learned, I met other moms and made friends and fed the occasional treat to the horses that were around.  Eventually, I would also pet them and notice their individual personalities.  We laughed and called them the “Big Dogs” because they really did seem kind of similar to what I had seen with pet dogs and puppies.

I learned all their names from reading the tags on the stalls.  Let me rephrase, I learned all of their names WRONG because the horses in the stalls don’t always correspond with the signs on the front of the stalls.  I re-learned names through trial and error.  I asked a lot of stupid questions.  Once I saw an article on the 10 stupid questions everyone asks horse people.  I had asked 8 of them.  But, the instructors seemed glad that I was asking questions and interested in the horses that they loved so much.  It didn’t seem to bother them that I walked out to watch the lessons and help where untrained labor was needed, while some of the other Moms were happy in the car with the A/C on.  I slowly learned the terminology and eventually could tie a Western Saddle Knot like nobody’s business because I was helping my kiddo.

And over the months I began to deliberately bring snacks to the horses because it was fun to be with them.  I told other Moms how much my son’s balance, confidence, and social skills had improved since he had been riding and I invited them along to take a look.  I taught the other Moms what the horses names were.

One day, someone said that the Moms should get to ride and learn some of what their kids were doing.  Next thing you know, we had a Mom’s once a month riding group and I was in!

Then, we had to actually ride the horses and not kill ourselves.  Most of us had no experience and I enjoyed learning about the tack to use and grooming the horse that I was assigned, a big, white (poor guy got older and his spots faded grey!), Paint named Rocket.  But, eventually, we had to get on our horses and at that I was (all of a sudden) really scared!  I must have been on pure adrenalin and anticipation up to that point.

Another Hatchett Job, photo by Ethan Hatchett, Baron the Shire Horse, Calvin Center Equestrian Program, therapeutic riding, hippotherapy
The Author with Baron

But, once I got on and didn’t die, the lesson went really well as I learned how to hold the reins, use the stirrups, and generally stay upright on the horse.  I went back again…and again.  I eventually asked if I could take lessons also.   I keep progressing at my own pace (I think it’s been maybe 5 months now since my first ride) and I am a trotting fool.  No cantering yet, but I am getting there.

During these months, we received a donation to the program of a beautiful 20 year old Shire gelding named Baron.  He is furry and friendly and big enough to make you feel like he could never let you fall off.  He had  been used primarily for driving and not for riding, so he is building some top line muscles and building up endurance before being in the program.  He is an absolute gentleman and everybody that sees him is instantly smitten.

I am certainly no exception!  I love him and I always save some of the best treats for him each time I see him.  Lately, I have had the opportunity to ride him just a tiny bit at a walk to aid in his training.  I can honestly say that he rides like a dream and that I now have fantasies of running off with him (or walking off until he muscles up a bit).  Of course, my instructor would kill me if I tried and I am sure that at least 30 others are having the same fantasies, but a girl can dream, right?

Till next time,

Another Hatchett Job blog, signature, Jan Hatchett

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Why We Support Special Olympics

Another Hatchett Job blog, Creative Commons attribution, Special Olympics, Special Olympics logo,This week, our oldest son will be taking part in the Equestrian events for Special Olympics, Georgia.  This is his second year participating in this program and I wish I had realized that he could be a part of it years earlier than I did.  It is amazing how well he has responded to the horses and how well that the horses have responded to him.  He has gained so much from the experience, from better balance and posture, to a better outlook on life and more confidence.  I would totally recomend Special Olympics to anyone who may have a child who qualifies or who might want to participate in an amazing event as a volunteer!  I have watched volunteers blossom and benefit as they work with the riders over the past couple of years, also.Another Hatchett Job blog, horses, therapeutic riding, Creative Commons attribution

In writing this article, I checked out the Special Olympics website.  In their About Us section, it gives a really good explanation of what Special Olympics is all about:  Special Olympics transforms lives through the joy of sport, every day, everywhere. We are the world’s largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities: with 4.2 million athletes in 170 countries — and millions more volunteers and supporters. We are also a global social movement.

I am honored to be a part of this social movement!  From personal experience, I can truly report that this is a movement that not only changes lives, but celebrates life in its infinite and beautiful diversity.  Every athlete is loved.  Every athlete is valuable.  Every athlete is celebrated!  How amazing that is for a population that is largely overlooked (at best) and reviled (at worst).  These kids (I think of them as kids, but there is not an age limit in the Special Olympics, with some athletes training at our Equestrian Center (Calvin Center, Hampton, GA) being in their 40s) work hard and learn so much in preparation for various events.  Currently, 32 Olympic style sports are included.  I only have personal experience with the equestrian events, but other parents whose children participate in multiple sports report similar positive effects in the athletes in other events as well.

Another Hatchett Job blog, Creative Commons Attribution, Special Olympics swimming, Special Olympics, Special Olympics athletes, swimmers, swimmingParents may have to look around to find a Special Olympics sports group to practice with.  The county we live in has absolutely no Special Olympics groups here.  That is pretty telling, because if there were support from our local businesses and government for these kids, we would be easily able to find athletes!  Fortunately, a friend through our Boy Scout Troop introduced us to the Special Olympics training at the Calvin Center in the next county over.  Fortunately, the county north of us has 17 events that athletes can compete in and they have NO problems including those of us who don’t have access in our counties.

And all of this positive energy and caring comes through a rich history that started with Eunice Kennedy Shriver noticing that children with disabilities didn’t have places to play.  For a great look at the history of how one woman worked to change the perceptions of the day and start Special Olympics, read the article here.  I couldn’t do it justice by paraphrasing it.

I never knew I would have a child who would be able to take advantage of this amazing organization.  I couldn’t have prepared for it in advance.  But, I know that my son, and indeed, my Another Hatchett Job blog, creative commons attribution, western riding, equestrian events, horse showwhole family, has received love and support from a group of volunteers who are changing the world each and every day!  Maybe not in the way that some view changing the world, but no matter what moods we are in when we arrive for my kiddo’s lessons, he (and I) always leave smiling.  In a world of hatred and anger, this is an amazing and profound thing.  I refuse to overlook the beauty in that time on horseback and the kind and supportive words we both receive due to this organization.  Special Olympics is one of very few organizations that I feel very good about.  I have seen first hand how they operate and how they benefit their athletes.  They aren’t blowing wads of money on television ads and trying to blow up their own corporate salaries.  They are working to make the world a better place, one athlete at a time.  I can support that.

Margaret Mead once said, “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed,  that’s all who ever have.”  I think that Mrs. Shriver has also changed the world, possibly more than she ever thought possible, and I, for one, am incredibly grateful.

Do you support Special Olympics?

Till next time,

Another Hatchett Job blog, signature, Jan Hatchett