Hi everyone! Today I had the strange chance to observe a therapeutic riding session at a local equestrian center. This was assigned to me for my class on teaching children with physical impairments. Its a little odd. See, my school does not let us choose or find our own observation sites. Instead, they have a computer program that consists of all of the sites they work with, and it randomly assigns you to one for each class. I guess they really try scrape bottom finding schools to put us in, because instead of schools you may find yourself in a special recreation program, and instead of working with children you may find yourself working with, for instance, senior citizens! There's no rhyme or reason to it. But anyways...
The setting was, obviously, a horseback riding arena. The equestrian center mostly does regular horseback riding lessons, but on Sundays they also do therapeutic riding. When I arrived and told the person at the desk that I was there to observe therapeutic riding lessons, they led me over to a gallery and told me to observe trough a window along with lots of parents of children taking regular riding lessons. It was a little hard to observe, since I had to strain my eyeballs to try to follow one particular person working with certain kids, I couldn't hear anything that was being said, and I often got elbowed out of the way by parents. Plus the teachers would often take the children to an outdoor ring, which I could not see and could not manage to find.
The children ranged in age from about four years old, to high school aged. Of the children with special needs, it seemed like most of the ones I saw had autism.(Not physical impairments, at least not ones that were clear to see!) Each child had at least one teacher to himself, and sometimes one or two volunteers helping. The volunteers would walk on either side of the horse, I guess to make sure the children didn't fall (or jump) off. It seemed like, for some of the kids, the riding lessons were similar to what the non-therapeutic beginner riding students were doing. They had to lead the horse out into the ring, get on him, steer him around and around (I don't know if "steer" is the right word here, but you know what I mean!), possibly try trotting, and eventually lead him back out of the ring and into the stable. For other children, kids who were less verbal or had less understanding of what was being said, it looked like the teachers just led the horse around and around the ring with the child onboard. I saw some teachers talking to the therapeutic riding students. One very happy boy was grinning and making joyful noises like, "Whoooo! Yeeee!" and his teachers laughed and talked to him as they led him around. Another teacher barely glanced at the child, but just walked around, leading the horse, like a pony ride at the carnival.
Anyways, I was there for about two and a half hours, and then I went home. I am supposed to go for a total of ten hours, and write a "reflection" on my experience, tying it in with what I learned in the class. I wish I could get something out of this, other than just watching children ride around in circles on horses. It would be nice to interact with the children, talk to the teachers, and understand more of what is going on. This is why sometimes I get so frustrated with my school... they have an attitude of, "This is just the way it is, don't complain and don't ask questions," so many people end up not getting as much out of their "field work" experiences as they could. I don't know how sitting in a gallery counts as field work, but I guess it will just have to do for now!
Maybe it will be better next week. I'll have to wait and see.