Having a traumatic brain injury can be limiting and frustrating. Simple task become a challenge and memory can play daily tricks that are not enjoyable at all and make one feel like a fool.
One of our veterans has come a long way from almost never speaking to conversing and opening up after long trail ride in canter and especially after learning to jump. After one of those successful jumping lessons where Clue was just a charm and made sure the rhythm and joy of jumping was truly experienced by the soldier rider, the father of three came up to me and shared. He loved jumping, and he mentioned how happy and relaxed it made him. He said it kept him going, and Clue is saving his life.
He became silent for a little, enjoying the gently breathing of the horse against his legs; And suddenly he looked straight at me and said: “I want to connect with my son again. I can’t at this point, but I think we could do it through the horses and the riding. Can I bring him one day?”
I was perplexed and did not expect this reflection and action plan at all, but of course took the opportunity to invite both of them for their next session the following week.
Today, they both walked up. Dad and a little four year old with a big smile and a baseball cap. Clue was already patiently waiting to be brushed and groomed. Dad showed his little one brushes to use and together they took their time to spoil Clue with attention.
What a blessing I had learned to long- line. My plan was to put the little one on, kind of stay out of the communication picture, while dad and little guy would chat and enjoy the ride- me in the background guiding Clue through a safe ride. I did not count on dad being back to his old self: self- centered and silent. An interesting scenario developed though- we know, the autistic kiddo in the saddle is often non-verbal, or limited in wanting to communicate (the same with many other conditions). We also know, a great way to unschool and teach communication skills is by modeling, or dropping information...Well then, I thought, and gave it a try- maybe, the client was walking beside the kiddo in the saddle. Maybe he was not ready. So, how could I teach without frontloading and just teaching directly? Best way ever- let the child take the lead!
His little kiddo was fascinated by everything around him, but I could also see, he was not used to conversation or getting a reply or follow up question- so I started to play with communication. When he got excited, I chimed in- and if you know me, I CAN GET EXCITED EASILY- you could see the smile of the little guy grow. Follow up questions were soaked up like a dry sponge- he was starving for dialogue and so we went on and on talking about dump trucks and wild cowboys, wildflowers and hidden turkeys. We disappeared in a toddler world while riding along the beautiful silent trails of the Academy. Oh, right, I almost forgot about dad who was nicely walking along LISTENING in. We dropped the information how to communicate, we showed him how enjoyable it was; he was part of it without being on the spot- and after the ride he said- this was so worth it!
On a funny note- little Clue knew it was dinner time and challenged me all the way home without any of the two even taking note of it. I was literally carrying a horse home- and he is not small...while dad was removing little rocks from his shoes and Clue not listening to the whoa and stop command, slowly plowing on, while I was trying to keep an unaware toddler happy in the saddle- gotta love that horse ;-) and had a workout for a lifetime- the things we do ;-)
Besides that, it was magical, and once again, HorseBoy put my life and complaining and daily little annoyances in perspective just like the work did last year around this time when I was about to burn out. This is why I love what I do so much. There is no doubt of the effectiveness it has on so so many lives. There is no doubt presented with the right tools we can make the difference we want to see. It gives modesty, energy, but most of all hope.