The biggest barrier to getting started in therapeutic horseback riding is getting over the fear of the unknown. For most people, especially city folk, horseback riding can be an intimidating sport. There are probably many questions running through your mind. How do I know if the program I am considering is a good one? Is the program safe for my child? Will the people running the program know how to deal with my child’s special needs?
As a parent you may also have concerns about how your child will react to the horses and the environment. A barn is a unique place with many unfamiliar smells and sounds. Add to that the large animals moving around and you can see where anyone, even average kids, could be overwhelmed. For kids with sensory and behavioral problems this is a valid concern.
Another concern for most parents is the costs; after all isn’t horseback riding an expensive sport? You may be wondering how you will be able to afford to pay for equipment, lessons, and all of the other expenses?
One other fear that my may be experiencing is the fear of failure. If you are like me you are probably considering Therapeutic Riding after trying, and failing, at many other activities. The possibility that this type of program will not be a good fit may be preventing you from taking the first step.
The Good News!
The good news is that most Therapeutic Riding programs make it very easy to get started. Most programs have some sort of new rider orientation program that is designed to address any concerns that you have and to make sure that your child makes an easy transition into the program. Most orientations start with a site visit to introduce the child to the idea and start to allow you to gauge how receptive they are to the environment. The site visit also is an opportunity for the program director to get to know your child and to gain an understanding of his/her special needs and goals. Based on this assessment the program director will tailor a program to your child and develop plan to ease your child into the program at their own pace. The transition may take some time, but a good program director has a lot of experience in making sure that the transition is a successful and enjoyable experience.
The other good news is that most programs are non-profit organizations and are designed to make therapy affordable. Most program directors are experienced in dealing with insurance companies, state agencies, and other funding sources to identify any available resources. Most organizations also hold fundraising events, solicit grants, and ask for private donations to help the parent offset some, or all of the costs. Most program directors try very hard to take concerns about cost out of the equation.
Taking the First Step
Overcoming the fear of failure is one of the hardest lessons you have to learn as a parent of an Autistic child. I look at this as one of the many gifts that we receive as we learn to parent our Autistic children. In the end therapeutic riding may not be a good fit for your family. But, in my experience the rewards offset all other concerns and make the effort well worth the risk. If you need proof of this just keep reading my blog. So, don’t let your fears prevent you from taking the first steps and giving therapeutic riding a try.
In my next post I will walk you through the process of finding the right therapeutic riding program.