In this fostering blog, we hear from one of our brilliant Participation and Support Workers (we have 4 at Affinity, covering everywhere we work). Part of their role is to support children and foster carers, and this is an example of an amazing session we recently had.
On a weekly basis, I take one of our Young People horse riding at a local riding centre for a half an hour lesson. This Young Person is Autistic and non-verbal, so it was felt that introducing them to horses could be both physically beneficial and mentally therapeutic.
Due to this thier Autistic nature, I was aware that they would most likely struggle with new things and change. So, when introducing them to horse riding, I wanted the them to take things at their own speed to be able to adjust accordingly.
Multiple people, including myself, wore a riding hat before putting one on the Young Person so that they would not be the only one wearing one and that they could see that it was not going to hurt them. When approaching the pony, I held their hand and we walked together towards the pony, I stroked it and wait until they were comfortable around the pony before progressing to riding.
Once I lifted them onto the pony, I walk beside them for the entirety of the lesson, supporting their back with one arm and holding onto their leg with the other arm. We only walk around the arena during the lesson, changing direction, doing some circles and occasionally walking over some ground poles.
As soon as they get onto the pony, they go into an instant state of calm. They could be unsettled, tense or crying but once they are lifted into the saddle, you can watch their body relax and a smile appears on their face.
At the end of the lesson, the Young Person is always happy to have the riding hat taken off of their head and will generally give the pony a pat before we head back to the car.