As a young teenager, Katie seemed a little shy and unconfident. She often walked with her shoulders slouched and her eyes down. Katie had been introduced to horses before her arrival at Heritage, so when she came to Heritage, she was interested in working in the equine therapy program. Katie often struggled with social interactions with people around her, but really enjoyed spending time with the horses. She liked to groom and talk to them, and enjoyed learning to ride. In the beginning, Katie lacked confidence in riding. She was unbalanced, she continued to slouch her upper body when riding, and at times she would almost fall off. It wasn’t long until Katie picked Barbie as the horse she wanted to work with. Little by little, she gained more confidence in her riding skills and in working with such a large animal. She looked forward to her lessons with Barbie, would frequently go to the barn to visit her during the week and could often be seen sneaking apples to her.
As the months passed, Katie started sitting more upright in the saddle and riding with more control, balance and confidence. She eventually entered the advanced girl’s riding class, where she worked on riding her horse over jumps, at the canter, and in an English saddle, which is often more challenging than riding western. The change in her demeanor, including her huge smile and improved riding skills, was remarkable. Katie then began cheering her classmates on and her social interactions began to improve with her peers and instructors. She has since gotten a job working in the barn caring for the horses. She is learning responsibility and work skills that will help her throughout her life. It is easy to see how working with horses has helped improve this young woman’s life, by building her self-confidence, her skills and her relationships with others.
Many people are afraid of working with horses. The average horse weighs about 1,200 pounds. Horses have a mind of their own, and they are very large, strong animals. Working with horses takes courage, patience and understanding. Learning to step up and become the leader is an important skill for anyone working with these animals. Horses look for that leadership and working with a horse helps one to develop those important leadership skills. Because of its large size, a horse cannot be forced into cooperation. One must seek to understand how the horse feels, and, with understanding and patience, help guide it to follow commands.
This lesson is one that is valuable to all situations in life. As the student learns how to effectively have a good relationship with their horse, on the ground and in the saddle, they begin to feel a sense of accomplishment and confidence in their work. The horse is a master teacher. If people take the time to develop their horsemanship skills in an equine program like the one at Heritage, amazing results can be seen as lives change, confidence grows and students thrive.