After being told about the Disney Give A Day Get A Day promotion our family signed up to participate. Going through the list of options it was difficult to figure out what would be a good fit for six people with the youngest child being 6 years old (Lil Bro was too young to participate). Some good options didn’t allow children that young to volunteer and then I came across an organization with horses. Bingo!
I had wanted to have Miss and Mr. participate in horse therapy last summer but it was expensive and we just could not swing it for both. I thought this would be a great opportunity to see how they reacted with the horses. Mr. has a very common fear among Aspies, he is afraid of bugs and especially flying bugs and spiders. He has had MAJOR panic attacks that were the likes of a TV movie hallucination. Even around our big bouncy Daisy the Dog he tends to me jumpy so how he would react to horses that have been rescued because of mistreatment in most cases was definitely a question mark.
Miss has these grandiose fantasies where she rides like the wind on back of a Spirit the horse however the reality of her actually meeting a horse for the first time was that she flipped out and refused to get out of the car. So I definitely had a question mark there too.
But … what was the worst that would happen? They or even just one of them would flip out and we would leave the ranch and not go to Disney. Life would go on.
To our surprise they both did amazing! We knew that Big Sis would be in horse heaven because she has wanted to be a veterinarian since age 3. The kid would ride a tiger given the opportunity. When she attended zoo camp this summer she was the only kid a lot of times that would pick up or go in to feed the less desirable animals. So there was no question mark regarding her. And she did great!
My two first grades brushed and groomed a 23-year-old Clydesdale horse. They went tromping through a pasture of horse poop and marched right up to this gentle giant and brushed him like his was their best friend, it was amazing! Mr. was very in charge and had no fear around these horses. He helped clean horse gear and polished brass with his Big Sister. Miss stuck with Mama and we did lots of talking to horses and feeding them apples and carrots and putting away helmets and such.
The organization pegged The Hubs as capable right off the bat and had him doing all kinds of manual labor. They were really grateful for the help. One benefit was that everyone that volunteered had the opportunity to ride a horse.
Mr. was a hoot! He was very assertive about wanting to ride the horse and at one point I thought he was just going to jump on. Impulse control is not his strong point. But the staff were very assertive too and safety conscience so that handled him well. Although Miss did great with interacting with the horses when it came time to ride she said, “Mommy I’m scared and I’m not doing it.” I said that was no problem and she could come with Mommy and watch the others ride. She seemed disappointed in herself but we all kept commending the great work she did that day and how brave she was with the horses. She had a minor meltdown when it came time to leave. She started picking at Big Sis and that did not go in her favor but we all just moved forward and when The Hubs started the van she jumped in and decided to abandon her stand off. Gosh is takes years to figure your kid out and know how best to handle a particular situation with said child. One thing I have learned is if I seem completely oblivious to her misbehavior and keep everyone in the group moving forward she is not going to let us get out of sight. As soon as she shuts it off I give her positive attention of some sort, in this case praising her again for her good work with the horses. We just move on and act as if we never noticed her naughtiness. It sometimes gives her enough time, even just a moment, to plug her brain back in and move forward with the rest of us. Thankfully it worked this time.
I am definitely going to be exploring what options are available closer to home for the kids to interact with horses. The therapeutic benefits truly are amazing.
Now as I mentioned Lil Bro did not attend this event with us so that meant that he needed a babysitter. We just don’t leave our kids with babysitters. The last time we paid a babysitter Big Sis was age 4, she will be 11 in May. Usually we would organize for Grandma to come and stay for a day or so and then she would baby sit Lil Bro at home. Well Grandma being the traveler that she is had just been away on a 2 week vacation with Paw Paw and their friends. They had a wonderful time by the way but it was too soon to ask her to come for a visit. So this meant we needed a real babysitter. We arranged for some friends of ours to watch Lil Bro.
He announced, “I’m not staying here. I go wit you Mom.” I used our phrase, “Mommy always comes back.” This is something that he likes to role-play often at home. Although he has had no other form of trauma in his blessed little life the one trauma he experienced was loss of birth giver and then loss of foster Mom and family. They had him from the time he was 2 days old until he was 14 months old and in my arms forever. So separating from Mom is somewhat traumatic and we have worked to make it less upsetting for him. He is allowed to call Mom on the phone for reassurance and yes I was in the middle of a horse pasture assuring Lil Bro that I was coming back.
All in all the family that watched him did a great job of keeping him busy and distracted and he did okay. He slept well that night and has been okay since.