I adopted a 6 year old boy who was living on the streets of Phoenix, Arizona. Bobby had never gone to school and had absolutely no love or structure in his young life. He was definately a wild child. After reading how animal therapy can change lives I enrolled Bobby in a equine therapy program. This is the story of how one horse changed the world of one little boy.
Equine Therapy Works
A true story of how one horse changed the world of one little boy
Riding in the Ring
I lived in Arizona for 7 years and while there I met this little 6 year old boy. He was absolutely adorable. This child was homeless and lived on the street with his mother. The man I was living with happened to be the child’s grandfather. WOW, I couldn’t believe that he was condoning such conditions for his own grandson to live in, let alone his daughter. After advising my friend that if we did not take the boy home with us (and the mother too) I would call CPS on him. Next thing I knew I suddenly had a 6 year old boy living with me who had never been to school, had no discipline, no structure and absolutely no love. Having never met an inner-city child before, let alone one who was a complete ‘wild child’, I was about to embark on the most rewarding experience in my life.
I had Bobby on a strict schedule as to play time, TV time and homework time. All this child needed was love, understanding, patience and structure. The kicking, screaming and time outs stopped but the hard part was far from over; teaching Bobby what love was all about. What could I do to promote love in Bobby’s life was the million dollar question. I had read about equine therapy and how it helps children and adults with coping problems. I had a cat, but Bobby didn’t seem too interested in it at all.
One weekend I brought Bobby to a stable located on one of the reservations which had an equine therapy program for inner city children. Bobby was a little timid at first as the horses were, of course, so much taller than he was. One of the horses called ‘Rambo’ walked up to the fence and started to gently nudge Bobby with his nose. Bobby just stood there frozen like a statue. The instructor talked to Bobby and told him that ‘Rambo’ liked him and for Bobby to reach out and touch ‘Rambo’s’ nose. Bobby started to giggle saying “his nose is so soft”. I believe that was a moment of ‘love at first sight’ between Bobby and ‘Rambo’.
After talking with one of the instructors and seeing the smiles on the other children’s faces I signed Bobby up for the equine therapy program. On the way home, Bobby did nothing but talk about the horses and how he always wanted to be a cowboy. This was the first time I ever seen that he had any interest in anything. He was so excited he could hardly wait the 6 days to start his lessons. During the week before his first lesson I would take him to the stables so he could talk to the other kids and see the horses.
When the time came to actually ride, the instructor taught him how to put a bareback pad on the horse. My eyes widened - a bareback pad? Bobby has never even ridden before. As Bobby got up on the back of that horse, his smile was so big it took up his whole face. I was witnessing this child being happy for the first time in his life. After the lesson was done and while we were walking to the car to go home, Bobby gave me the biggest hug imaginable. I was so happy for him I started to cry. We talked about horses and his day at the stables all the way home and up until bedtime. I just knew he was going to have sweet dreams about his day.
Bobby was a natural when it came to riding. He listened to the instructor more than he listened to me or his school teacher. The bareback pad provided confidence and the horse provided unconditional love, the two things that Bobby had never experienced before. His schooling improved as well as his overall attitude. During the days that he was not scheduled to have his lesson, he would ask me if we could go to the stables. Once at the stables, he would grab a pitchfork and start mucking out the empty stalls and would comb the horses. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
After Bobby had his summer lessons, it was time to graduate from beginner to intermediate rider. What he didn’t know was that it was going to be a family day at the arena as I kept that as a surprise. I sat proudly in the stands with the other parents and watched him guide his horse over jumps that were laying flat on the ground, and trot around the arena. I was as proud of him as he was of himself. Watching him grow and build self confidence and love through the horse program was so incredible.
There is something to be said about animal therapy and how it helps people of all ages. I have watched more than one child grow with love and self confidence about themselves with the unconditional love of an animal. Animals work miracles that don’t compare with anything else on this planet. Promoting animal therapy in orphanages and foster care is one of the challenges I have set out for myself. Implementing animal therapy for our ‘forgotten children’ is not only going to provide them with the unconditional love they are missing in their lives it will be saving lives of animals that are put down in the thousands on a daily basis. Just think, these children may grow up to become a doctor or a therapist, a veterinarian or even another Albert Einstein with the self confidence and love that they learn with the help of our wonderful four footed friends. People do not have the capability of unconditional love like animals do. If we, as a nation, can each help one of these children through animal therapy we would be a better world for it.