When a child rides with us in the saddle we believe that they are in the ideal place to learn.
Because of the combination of a lack of forced eye contact, the deep pressure necessary to keep them safe up there, and, crucially, the movement of the horse. Over many years of trial and error we have discovered that, although being on the horse optimizes the learning process, any sort of rhythmic movement promotes learning. This is especially true in children with autism, or other related conditions, who are often kinetic learners, meaning they require movement in order to receive and retain information. Whether or not the child is moving themselves or stationary on a moving object, movement seems to be the key to learning.
We first discovered this with Rowan when, after struggling to teach him his two times table, we took him out on the trampoline and bounced him through it. Suddenly he was flying through it and it took less than three months to complete all twelve and move onto division. Since then we have abandoned any pretense of teaching him inside at a desk and instead find ways to teach everything, from learning equations to the structure of cells, kinetically. Whether or not the child is moving themselves or stationary on a moving object, movement seems to be the key to learning.
In the summer, due to the Texas heat, we do everything whilst swimming and in the winter we spend a lot of time on the trampoline but recently we discovered a great new way to include movement in our day when we became the proud owners of two brand new wheelbarrows that were the perfect size and shape to sit in and be pulled around.
Rowan, of course, loved this game and quickly created a race track which his ever obliging ladies (aka the working students) had to pull him around at speed whilst he ordered them to go ever faster. It wasn’t long before we started measuring the angles of the turns and calculating the speed that we were going at using the formula, speed = distance/time. We even spent a day testing Issac Newton’s laws of motion and found that gravity does indeed slow you down when you are trying to go uphill. Great fun for him and a perfect opportunity for learning through exploration, movement and most importantly fun.
And to top it all off by the time he had tired of the game and moved onto something else we had all lost more than a few pounds.