“Who’s Your Best Friend?”

Emily and her familyEddie has participated in therapeutic horseback riding since he was eighteen months old. I have heard miraculous accounts of what children could achieve when riding and the language that can be discovered. Just today I heard a story of a young rider whose very first words happened on a horse and that type of story is not uncommon. Because Eddie has been riding for 4 1/2 years we have expected our own tales to tell of great discovery and achievement while riding. The reality is that Eddie’s progress has been slow…steady…but slow.

It was less than a year ago when he began to communicate verbally with Bob and Timi who run the organization. Even so, they would only get one word or maybe two words together at best. Even though we weren’t seeing major breakthroughs, we never thought of discontinuing the riding. We knew it was still helping him in all areas and Eddie really enjoyed riding the horses and the camaraderie with the couple that works with him.

Besides language, horseback riding has greatly improved Eddie’s posture and “trunk control.” Due to his low muscle tone, he started out lying down on the horse and progressed to a sitting position over time. His posture on the horse immediately translated to the rest of his life and he still sits up straighter than I ever have.

Anyone that has ridden a horse will quickly admit it is a work-out. At our first visit, Eddie cried the whole time. After asking for my permission, Bob told Eddie he couldn’t get off the horse until he stopped crying. It was almost three hours later, in the middle of which was a transfer to a barrel, before Eddie stopped crying. However, he never did that again. That type of follow-through is a rarity because of time, patience, and low expectations. I knew, and Bob and Timi knew, that Eddie understood. No matter how hard it was for all of us; if we had given in, Eddie would have cried twice as long the next time.

Today, Eddie had a breakthrough like none other we had seen on the horse. Bob has asked Eddie since day one, “Who’s your best friend?” His favorite game is getting his riders to say “Bob” as an answer to that question. Bob has received all kinds of responses from other children but Eddie has never answered. Bob doesn’t take it personally, as Eddie rarely answers a question. Even then, Eddie only answers when given choices. Today, that changed.

Bob posed the same question he does every time, “Who’s your best friend?” Immediately Eddie said, “Bob is my best friend.” I thought Bob was going to pass out. His face flushed, he had tears in his eyes, and Eddie had just made his day and probably his whole week. Eddie had not only answered, but used a complete sentence. I was astonished. All those years of brainwashing paid off for Bob and for Eddie. All joking aside, now I am grateful to Bob and to Timi, because I too have a story to tell about a great discovery on the back of a horse.