Stuffsoup – a little blog with a lot of "stuff"

Be Still My Heart

Posted in Down syndrome,parenting by stuffsoup on March 23, 2010

My daughter had her riding helmet and cowboy boots on (even though she had clearly forgotten how to walk in the boots over the winter with their extra heel). My son had his pieced-together outfit with lots of camouflage, pink boots, green scarf, and purple mittens and he was ready to be a good (and warm) spectator. I had my new (to me) digital camera at the ready to hopefully get better shots in the low light. Everyone was excited to start the spring session of We Can Ride, a wonderful program for therapeutic horseback riding. The horses, the volunteers, everyone was ready for riders and the riders were ready too.

First, the horses were lead by the riders (with the volunteers’ assistance) around the arena for a warm up, then one by one, with big smiles, they mounted. My daughter has been riding horses there since she turned 2 years old and she loves it. They did the usual riding around the arena doing stretches and I snapped pictures whenever my daughter was close enough to see well from the gate where her brother and I watched. I could see that both my daughter and the horse she was riding were being a bit feisty. The horse stopping in his tracks periodically and my daughter pulling some at the reins (even though they are not yet attached in a way that she has control of the horse – it is just for practice at this point). Both were a bit resistant to all the instructions they were being given – both were just trying to settle into the new session.

At one point, the instructor called for the class to line up at the far end of the arena for a game of red light, green light. My daughter had just passed that end of the arena and so instead of doing another loop, the volunteers decided to take her back. The horse was not happy with this decision and resisted the turn around. They pushed for him to join the other horses already lining up. Then, the horse decided to protest in the strongest way a horse has to show his disagreement. He fired his head back and lifted his front hooves off the ground and as my daughter slipped off the left flank of that horse, my breath caught in my throat. It looked as though the volunteer who was on that side was going to catch her, but she said later that she just couldn’t get ahold and as my daughter fell to the ground, I gasped.

The next thing I saw made my heart stop right where it was… the hind hooves raised… and they were coming down right at my daughter. A million things raced through my mind, but the loudest of them all was just NOOOOOOOO! I dropped my camera and fought my way through the gate and into the arena to get my baby girl. I was so afraid. It was the scariest I have ever felt in her whole life. As I moved toward her, I knew I had to pull it together for her. By the time she reached me from the other end of the arena she was wailing, but she was alive and she hadn’t been trampled. We sat in a chair just outside of the arena and I held her and I kissed her and I tried to comfort her the best I could. I asked her if she was ok, I asked if she was hurting anywhere, I told her things like “I bet that was scary, huh?” and “boy, that (horse) sure wasn’t listening very well, was he?”. She WAS scared and she WAS hurt and in hindsight, she was also angry. So, I just held her some more.

The volunteer who had the near catch came over and said to my daughter something like, “that horse, it was like he was dancing there, huh?” My daughter paused in her grief and I knew I had my opportunity. I said to her that it would be absolutely ok to tell that horse, “no more dancing, just walking today”. And, she looked at me and she said, “yeah”. Yeah. She made it. She breathed and I could exhale. When asked if she wanted to go ride again she said, “yeah” and she went over to the lift (even though she was being asked to use the block for mounting) and she rose (literally and figuratively) to get back on that horse. The instructor told me later that she also made sure to say to the horse before she got back on, “no more dancing!”. As she walked on, she smiled and said “that’s better” and so I guess we all will be.

I asked if a horse had ever bucked anyone off before, because it really seemed like such an anomaly to me. One volunteer said “yeah” but another said “oh, never, not since I’ve been here”. I can’t say I won’t be holding my breath just a little bit next week. These are animals after all and I was just reminded of how powerful they can be.  But, it really is a great program and I have to trust the process. So, if you have a few minutes and would like to check out the We Can Ride program, here is a link to a video about them – my daughter is in the video too. 🙂


6 Responses to 'Be Still My Heart'

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  1. Lisa Fisher said,

    Wow! I felt like I was there, the way you described that. I believe that WAS very scary, a million things through your mind in a second. Seems like she did the bravest thing, getting back on that horse. Also brave for mom to let her. We so want to protect, yet we know how crucial it is to allow them to face such and build confidence from doing so. What a girl! (both of them in this story 🙂

  2. Kim said,


    I’m glad she got back on. And I’m super glad she was okay. I hope you don’t have to hold your breath every week from now on.

    No more dancing.

  3. Brandy said,

    I’m glad that nothin really serious happen to your daughter. Hopefully next week they will give your daughter different horse.

  4. stuffsoup said,

    Thanks, ladies. Brandy, I think the instructor would like to keep the same horse for now. He’s not a bad horse, he just had a bad day and I know I’d hate for my daughter (or myself for that matter) to be judged solely by a bad day. I will defer to the instructor’s judgement on this one since she knows those horses better than I and she thinks that right now, they are the best therapeutic match. Perhaps, we will remind him of the “no more dancing” rule though, just to be sure. 🙂

  5. Janet said,

    Oh my gosh! I can imagine it so vividly… what a horrifying scare! I’m so glad she wasn’t trampled and how wonderful that she was brave enough to get right back on! Let’s all pray for no more bad horse days!!

  6. Rachel Lickley said,

    Michele… wow! What a scary adventure! I am taking a few minutes today to catch up on your writing. I’ve seen them come over email and I just haven’t taken the time. I always feel so “good” after reading these. You have such a beautiful way of ALWAYS putting a new perspective on life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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