Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Calder and Cisco

Yesterday Calder rode a horse for the first time and quite unexpectedly.  My intention was just to drive out to the ranch and at best fill out some paperwork that I was not able to print out at home.  I was told there were spots left when usually there is a waiting list so I rushed out there to sign and seal the deal.  I didn't explain much to Calder except that we were going to meet a guy named Carlos, oh and that he had a ranch, oh and that there may be some horses there.  That was it.

Carlos was as smooth as butter.  While he was getting to know Calder I noticed that he was quietly asking one of the volunteers to saddle up the enormous 16 hand sorrel horse that was just on the other side of the tack shed.  Little by little, ole Cisco, got bridled and saddled up.  Carlos produced a kid sized riding helmet and asked Calder if he thought it would fit.  We talked about how much it is like his bike helmet and he was eager to try it on.  Going out there, my key concern was that they go at the kids pace, knowing that Calder surely would need time and space to warm up to a 1600 lb. beast.  Maybe for the first few weeks Calder could pet the horse and brush the horse, yadda yadda yadda.

Within 20 minutes or so Calder was in the saddle, on the horse alone, being led by several volunteers.  All of this being orchestrated by Carlos himself, weaving in and out, standing with me, allowing space, checking in and quietly directing.

Im not here to go on and on about how fantastic Carlos is with horses and kids.  No, I want to share this single question Calder asked me over and over that first day, and again today when I took him back out for a ride:

 "Hey Mom, how are YOU doing?"  My 6 1/2 year old has never asked me that before.
It caught me off guard. I was in a secret wonderful kind of shock, just to be seeing my guy on the horse. How am I doing? He was totally relaxed and proud and confident up there in the saddle, having genuine back and forth conversation with his newfound team. "Mom, how are YOU doing?" Turning around so that he could look at me directly and hear my answer.

There is proven research that the rhythm of a horses walking cadence is beneficial to kids with autism.  I've read about how non-verbal kids talk while on the horse.  I've also read about how calming it is for the nervous system, benefitting a disregulated body; a body out of sync.  You don't have to convince me to try it.  You don't have to convince me that there is certain benefit, even for high functioning kids.  You don't have to convince me that feeling the power of such a large animal; sitting atop and seeing the world from a higher view, and being in control of that is nothing shy of marvelous for such a little kid.  You don't have to convince me that a friendship, even a love, can develop between horse and man (or woman, or kid....)  It seemed he grew up a little bit that day.