The Reins of Life

I saw a child

I Saw A Child

I saw a child who couldn’t walk,
sit on a horse, laugh and talk.
Then ride it through a field of daisies
and yet he could not walk unaided.
I saw a child, no legs below,
sit on a horse, and make it go
through woods of green
and places he had never been
to sit and stare,
except from a chair.
I saw a child who could only crawl
mount a horse and sit up tall
Put it through degrees of paces
and laugh at the wonder in our faces
I saw a child born into strife,
Take up and hold the reins of life
and that same child was heard to say,
Thank God for showing me the way.

This poem was written by John Anthony Davies, who is a proponent of the benefits of therapeutic riding programs in the UK. It’s been many years since I was able to volunteer at a therapeutic riding center but it was a profoundly moving experience and gave me an entirely new perspective on the joy and healing that riding can bring to people with physical and mental challenges.
Lovelane Therapeutic Riding program
One of the children at the Lovelane therapeutic riding program. I volunteered as a sidewalker and horse leader.

At the time, I worried that it would be too sad to work with children who might be terminally ill. My own children were very young and I wasn’t sure how I would be able to handle it. What I found was happiness. Children who were none verbal tried to speak to the horses; children who arrived at their lessons stressed from the day, beamed with pleasure. For many children this was the highlight of their week.

Here are just some of the benefits derived from riding.

The movement of the horse as a person is riding at a simple walk gives them balance, coordination and self-confidence. The movement and unique walking gait of a horse or pony most closely resembles that of a human. Therefore, when a person is riding a horse, the rhythm and motion is therapeutic; the body gains strength through its adjustment to the horse’s gait. A new study conducted in Texas supports the positive outcomes of equine therapy.

Several national associations affirm the impact of equine therapy. The American Hippotherapy Association  recognizes hippotherapy and its use of equine by physical, occupational and speech therapists. “Hippotherapy” is defined by the organization as “a type of treatment that uses the multidimensional movement of the horse in medical treatment.” A rider telling his horse to, “Walk on,” or “Whoa!” is considered therapy for an individual with speech challenges.

Although there are more therapeutic riding centers being formed, there seem to never be enough to meet demand. When I volunteered, sometimes the waiting lists were months long. If you are lucky enough to have a program in your area, try to find some time to volunteer. Not only will it help bring this therapy to more kids, but it will benefit you, too.
Here’s a recent profile of the program where I helped out.

One thought on “The Reins of Life

  1. I would like to order a Plaque of “I saw a Child” for my son-in-law’s birthday. He has a horse riding program for sp-ed children and veterans.

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