Enjoy the day-to-day adventures of an Occupational Therapist in training!

Posts tagged ‘Autism’

Hoof prints on the heart

“Horses change lives. They give young people confidence and self esteem. They provide peace and tranquility to troubled souls; they give us hope”

-Toni Robinson

It amazes me how quickly I have become attached to the horses, the riders, the staff/volunteers, and the general atmosphere of the farm. Tomorrow marks my 3 month anniversary with DR, and I think I love it more everyday. I really can’t believe the impact that it has had on my life already…I know that internships are supposed to help you gain experience and reaffirm your commitment to your chosen career path, but I never imagined that I would feel so strongly about an internship as I do with this one!

It was sort of weird today- Miss Jennifer and Miss Corky wanted to know if I was coming back to volunteer in the fall when school started up again, of course I said I would come back if they’d have me. I honestly think that I have to continue to volunteer here so that I maintain my sanity. As I’ve said before, I find the barn to be extremely soothing. They both said that they were so glad that I was interning with them-and they thanked me for my willingness to help out. It was nice for them to thank me, sometimes I feel like they are helping me way more than I am helping them.

We have 2 new horses at the farm!! Mindy, a rescue, and Charlie, a halflinger! They enthusiastically greeted me as I drove up the driveway, so naturally I stopped and chatted with them. Both horses will be used in the DR program;however, they both need some training in order to become full fledged therapy horses. I’m looking forward to seeing their progress, just like I saw Mollie progress within the program. Not to be pessimistic (or philosophical, you choose), but in keeping with the balance of nature, no good news is without bad news. I found out today that Mindy and Charlie are Lou and AJ’s replacement. I also found out that Lou’s leg injury isn’t healing, in fact, he’s not improving very much at all. This news, especially about Lou, broke my heart. I’ve really gotten attached to him over the past few months. After all, I spend the most time with him, and I’ve been trying to nurse him back to health.  *Aside* Please don’t think that Dream Riders just throws horses away when they are no longer of use to the program… that’s not it at all!! Lou will most likely go to a retirement home for horses, yes they have those, where he will live out his natural days without stress. AJ will be going to Miss Jennifer’s cousin’s farm to chill and be ridden by riders who have riding knowledge, so hopefully he’ll be happy! I want what is best for both Lou and AJ, but I am really going to miss Lou’s company and his ornery nature. I guess this is good practice for when I have to say goodbye to patients with whom I’ve developed friendships with. I’m going to squeeze in all the Lou time that I can during his remain days at Dream Riders (however long that might be!)

Today I was reunited with the old team-Me ,Zach, Mollie, and Amanda (Zach’s other side walker.)  Zach apparently missed me because he was super vocal today and laughing.. which he hadn’t done since I switched riders. He also was saying “walk” clearly on the first try, which has been a struggle since my first day-apparently he hasn’t been saying it much since I’ve been “away”. I had really missed working with him. He is such a calm rider, and he never ceases to amaze me each week with something new that he shows me he can do or say. Autism is a funny disorder- it really doesn’t make sense sometimes in the way that it manifests in different people and different forms within the same person. Example: Zach knows all of his colors,numbers, farm animals, and shapes, but he has trouble saying the word “walk” clearly. He can say other things just fine, but walk gives him trouble. It’s really bizarre.  He’s inspired me to write my abnormal psychology research paper on Autism so that I can learn more about it, and hopefully be able to interact with him in a more effective way!

Monday’s always leave me exhausted, so I’m going to sign off! I’ll post again soon, not Thursday though because I won’t be at the farm. Thanks for reading!

Hours at Barn:

2:00 pm-7pm



Patience: Maybe she’s born with it… or not!

 I guess you could say that I have a patient heart, but an impatient head. In other words, when someone is talking my ear off about things that have absolutely nothing to do with me, in my head I’m begging them to finish their story and praying that they don’t start another one; but instead, I just smile and try my hardest to listen and to display pleasant facial expression. In this case, my heart won out… I didn’t make a scene. Since I have those annoyed feelings, I think that it is a huge injustice to people who actually are patient to label myself as a patient person. I mean I want to give myself some credit here, I don’t strangle people who waste time with nonsense either. So that’s where I’m at- floating somewhere between Mother Theresa and a moderate politician in our current governmental gridlock . Stupid analogy? Probably, but you catch my drift!  🙂 

Yesterday was a very exciting day! I think we might have found out why Zach was having such a hard time saying “walk” and not acting as excited as he has in the past (so I was told.) The young lady who usually leads Molly (the horse) wasn’t able to make lessons last night, so we had to use a different leader. Our new leader walked at a much slower pace which, in turn, made Molly walk slower as well. When Molly speeds up her gait, her body feels much different to the rider- it’d almost an overwhelming experience to feel her back muscles ripple over and over and over with each step. I think that Zach was getting too overwhelmed by the sensations he felt when Molly walked fast. Last night,with the slower walk, Zach was saying “walk” loud and clear on the first try almost every time! I was thrilled to have seen that progress. I was also amazed at difference that changing the horses gait made in his demeanor.  This experience helped me realize how much patience it takes to work with people who have special needs. On the outside, it may seem silly to get excited over someone saying “walk” but I know how much effort it took over the past 4 Mondays to get to this point. I am also learning that progress is, more often than not, is going to come in baby steps in this line of work. 

Last night, I also got a quick lesson in being patient with myself. In the last lesson of the evening, we were short one leader… who has 2 hands and volunteered herself? THIS GIRL! I was way more nervous to lead AJ (the Horse) than I am when I have to help out his rider. It is much more difficult than it looks. The rider kept making him stop when it wasn’t time to stop yet, so that always makes leading horses more interesting! I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to experience that part of the lesson, but I think I’ll be okay if I stick with being a side walker for now! Working with animals ,who can sense frustration and fear, really helps keep those feelings in check. If I’m feeling insecure the horse will feel the same way, which could lead to trouble! getting frustrated with myself during the lesson because I knew that I had no idea what I was doing… but I was trying! I need to work on cutting myself some slack; it was, after all, my first time doing that particular job! 

Nobody ever said that patience wasn’t a learned virtue! 😉