We have a very exciting new project as part of our volunteer program this year. Some of the residents from the Institute for the Blind of Worcester will be joining us on a regular basis for Equine Therapy. What an incredible experience to introduce this friendly and interested group to our horses. It is a wonderful learning curve for us as well as the residents and as usual Bob and Thunder stole the show as being the most interactive with the new visitors. Although some of the participants had taken part in riding activities previously, this was the first time they learnt about horses, catching, grooming and even leading them! We hope to have them riding soon, but we still need to build a suitable ramp to allow the residents to safely mount and dismount and we are also currently looking for more volunteers to assist during the sessions. For more information on the benefits of riding therapy for the visually impaired or if you would like to assist in any way, please contact Stephne Botha at the Worcester Blind Institute
Our first volunteer program in conjunction with the Steinthal Children's Home in Tulbagh, has not only been a learning experience for the children, but it has also been an interesting learning curve for us and the horses too! Just goes to show you are never too old to learn!
Whilst the children's excitement at learning to ride a horse and the benefits of equine interaction was something we expected through our previous experience with equine therapy, there were other aspects we didn't expect to have our eyes opened to!
Some of the horses reactions to children learning to ride on them has astounded us - initially we only did ground work and basics of horse care with the children, but when it came to ride we decided it would be safer to change to some of the calmer school masters, but one boy, Jason, had other thoughts - he and "Bob" have developed a bond and he was determined to stay with Bob despite all our warnings that Bob is a little too feisty for a beginner.
Keep in mind that Bob was a top polo pony and his 0 to 100 km p hr touch is very light.. imagine teaching someone to drive in a sports car... But at Jason's persistence, we decided to give it a try.. Bob's expression when Jason started bouncing around on his back while learning the trot was a picture, ears swivelling and twirling he was asking lots of questions, but he soon decided that actually it was ok and that this guy would get it right eventually - which he did.. so we were proven wrong again.. Jason's smile when he said "I learnt to trot on Bob", said it all.
Obviously we will keep a beady eye on those two as confidence increases!
The children all love going on out rides, they say they love the space and freedom of being out and "up the mountain" on horseback! Whilst on the outrides, we picked up that they are not familiar with many things like the names of the mountain ranges surrounding our valley, or what "renosterveld" and "fynbos" are - the first time I asked one of them to ride around a "renosterbos" I was asked if there was a rhino somewhere! They do however know that the Proteas are our Cricket team!! So now our rides have another feature, we teach the names of the plants (those that we know) and why they are important, the children get to experience first hand the effects of erosion and fires, learn about alien vegetation and with spring around the corner, we are now discovering the early flowers starting to bloom. We pick up litter, close gates and generally learn about nature. Through the children's growing awareness and questions, we have become more conscious of many things we take for granted on a daily basis!
We are very proud to be working with the Steinthal Children's Home on our first volunteer project and hope to soon be able to accommodate more children in our program. We would also like to thank all the very generous people who have given our horses grazing, donated equipment and generally offered support, your kindness and generosity makes this all possible.
The therapeutic benefits of interacting with horses have been known for years and horses are widely used for a variety of therapeutic programs world wide. Being with horses allows all participants to learn about themselves, other people and interacting with the world. It's not just about teaching riding or horse care skills, while working with horses participants learn the importance of respect and leadership too.
Befriending such a big and gentle animal such as a horse can also be a huge confidence booster.
Firmly believing in the quote "the outside of a horse is good for the inside of man" we started a volunteer program that will enable a group of less advantaged children from the local Steinthal Children's Home to learn about and interact with our horses. Education is also a vital part in creating awareness about animal care and lessening cruelty to animals.
The 10 children are split into two groups of boys and girls and each group spends 2 hours every week with the horses, grooming, undertaking challenges and also learning to ride. It is touching to see the bonds they have already formed with their favourite horse and how many of them enjoy simply "hanging out" with the horses. The photographs tell their own story.
The benefit of these sessions are obvious when each week these children ask " Can we come again next week?"
John & Jo
We are the owners of horseAbout Trails & Adventures in the Western Cape.
“We left the premises with heart full of joy, love for these amazing horses and admiration for the lifestyle of John and his family.”