Earlier this month, Miss Ribbons had her first session of hippotherapy at High Horses. It has been a long time coming. We heard about the program more than a year ago but I just never got my act together. Last summer, we were handed the application in person by one of Ryan's classmates who happens to volunteer with the program. But you might remember my summer? So we finally submitted the 17 page application last fall and were welcomed with open arms for the January session.
Leah's first session was filled with adventure. She was first placed on Nutmeg, a very mild mannered pony, who was spooked by the loud (really loud!) sound of the snow sliding off the tin roof of the barn. Nutmeg bucked her off and Leah was swiftly caught by PT Kate. Nutmeg was taken for a little walk to calm down while Leah switched horses and began riding Buddy. Not 10 minutes later, more snow slid off the roof and Buddy did the bucking. This time, it was Blythe (Ryan's classmate) who smoothly swooped a giggling Leah off the horse and into her arms. Leah continued to ride Buddy for the rest of the session. The directors, therapists and volunteers all apologized profusely and assured me this sort of thing is not normal. I, however, was thrilled with seeing their training in action and just felt even more assurance that Leah was in good hands. Leah just thought it was hilarious.
Aside from the excitement, Leah gets to ride (usually Nutmeg) forward, backward, sideways, standing up and kneeling down. The girl is a natural. Her favorite is to ride lying down and then showing off her amazing core by pulling into a sitting position. And she also loves trotting. The giggles are extra loud then.
After just three sessions she's getting better at either gently tapping Nutmeg three times, signaling "walk on", or using a switch that says the words for her. She spends 45 minutes going round and round, her giggle echoing through the barn.
We hope to have Leah continue riding until June when we move. And then, we hope to find another similar riding program in the Midwest. I love seeing her pigtails spill out of her cute pink helmet. I love watching her walk to the platform where she mounts Nutmeg. I love watching her gently brush him after her lesson is finished. I just love it all.
These sessions have brought a smile to my heart. For six years, I have worried about all Leah is missing out on. She can't take a dance class or an art class. She can't sign up for piano lessons or join the soccer team.
But she can ride Nutmeg. So ride she will.