I've been volunteering with an organization recently, they provide kids and adults with special needs or disabilities with recreational riding lessons intertwined with therapeutic riding. It's amazing to see how the instructors bring in the therapy aspects into the sessions, using props or reaching for their hands to make choices when they are unable to form word, how they learn to use their arms with the reigns, directing these beautiful horses that they also get to connect with.
My favorite rider and most wonderful experience has been with a boy we'll call E. I met him for the first time yesterday, I don't normally stay for the last lesson, but had gotten there late and so I offered to stay if they needed me. I was told it would be very helpful as E could always use more hands. In a session there's normally an instructor, a leader who guides the horse and a side walker. The instructor informed me I would take her place holding E on the horse and told me the type of grip we would be using with him. E looked to be about eight or nine, he wasn't able to stand on his own, his dad was holding him up as we brought the horse up to the ramp to more easily get him on. As I stood back to let them get E situated I watched as his dad was laughing and E was wiggling around and making noises, it looked like E didn't talk. One of the volunteers took off his hat and sunglasses and the instructor remarked, "Oh good you're prepared." I removed my hat and followed suit not really knowing what was in store. Once in the arena I got a swift tug to my head, E had wrapped his hands onto my hair and began to yank his arms up and down with that still firm grip, I now understood. Now for the hold on E we needed to use our entire forearm on his leg to keep him on the horse while holding on to the padding of the horse so I was in close proximity to E's arm reaches, it was going to be a very entertaining ride. At the next moment my eyes spotted movement out of the corner of my eye, I swiftly took a lean away and spared myself the entanglement this time. I was thoroughly impressed by my quick reaction and looked back at E, his brown eyes lit up as he smiled the best smile I have ever seen and I just smiled back at him, laughing a little at his amusement of me. As the session went on and I watched as E worked on reaching for rings or trying to keep him from putting the reins in his mouth or even drooling on my arm as he reached to give me his best high-five, my smile grew.
Here was this boy smiling and laughing, being challenged in ways that might seem small to another nine year old, but such a big step for E and his elation just made the success that much more beautiful. His innocent and full of wonder smile just made my heart explode. As we got back and E was brought over to his dad I saw his father smiling so proudly, he kissed E on the top of the head and laughed as he gestured and nodded along to his sounds, helping him walk to the car. E's heart felt so open and so full in his interactions with all of us and seeing the love with his dad I knew why. That interaction made me think of my own life, my personal privileges of being born with a body and mind that allows me to do really anything so independently and yet I allow fears to keep my dreams and ideas, and really even myself tucked away. How can I be so afraid of the future when I have such capabilities as being able to walk on my own, easily communicate with people, so many things that I take for granted. Am I living my life celebrating these beautiful things that I have been gifted? Am I meeting challenges with all of me or only parts of me. It takes E's full force and focus to be able to listen to someone ask him a question, think about the answer, and reach out to a hand to convey what he would like to reply. Am I meeting my days and my challenges with that same force and focus. It inspired me and my worries seem so insignificant and achievable at the same time.
I learn so much from these riders, their determination, the way they succeed and celebrate their successes and that is only a small snippet of their life that I see. I encourage you to take some time out of your week to volunteer, get out of the bubble you normally spend time in, be with people that don't have the same life as you, don't have the same goals, just find the time to learn from someone new. Everyone really is our teacher if we take the time to listen and see. It's a beautiful and humbling experience to let your ego down and become the student in any situation. There is so much we have to learn...we get to learn!
*If you're interested in volunteering with me send me a message <3