Hugs for Horses
Hugs for Horses has been nothing short of an amazing experience for our students! To start, the trip to a farm, with all of the plants, animals, sights, sounds, smells, etc. has been something that most, if not all, of our children have never had the opportunity to experience. When we got off the bus for the first time, we were greeted by a few of the resident farm dogs (who are extremely friendly), which was terrifying for a few of our students. Clearly, these kids had not had positive experiences with dogs thus far in their lives. By our 8th session, those same kids were willing to walk past the dogs without being picked up, and without tears of fear! The growth from session to session is really exciting to watch.
In regards to the horses, riding has been another completely new experience for our kids, and we have watched as they have grown leaps and bounds. Most of our students were timid to be around and on such large animals at first. It is truly amazing to see the changes once a child is on one of the horses! There is an immediate calming effect, especially for those students who may have been frightened to get on. Once they are in the saddle and the horse is moving, the nerves vanish and usually a smile appears! By the second or third session, these kids were not only not nervous of the horses anymore, they were eager to have their turns!
We have seen great things from these kids when they are on the horses. Our students who have trouble with sensory input processing are calmed to the point that they are able to focus more clearly on a given task. One of our students with low verbal communication skills was able to repeat and imitate word after word while riding on the horse. Another student was so calmed/relieved after riding, that for the first time she was able to jump up and down on command. Yet another student (not spontaneously verbal) was requesting toys and play things while on the horse. Without being a doctor or a scientist it is hard to say for sure what about riding horses is causing these effects, but the results are real.. and really exciting!
Andrews Elementary School