Therapeutic Horsemanship and Love Meet a Son's Needs

Judith Cordray shares how prayer for their special education son and a therapeutic horsemanship instructor's refusal to limit him has helped her son break through limits and become more independent.

By Judith Cordray, Reno, NV

Categories: Guidance, Power of Prayer

Our youngest son, Frederick, is 21 years old and attends special education classes at our local high school. He is non-verbal, although he can hear. He uses sign language and an iPad to communicate. We've never looked at Fred as an individual with a disability; rather, we see him as a special individual with unique qualities.

We read in Genesis that "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created He him" (1:27). To me, this means that God beholds each of us, regardless of the labels others attach to us, as perfect and whole, in His image. Just because we can't see that perfection through our physical eyes, doesn't mean that it isn't so. The Bible also tells us that God is of "purer eyes than to behold evil" (Hab 1:13). I see this as our challenge -- to see as God does. We prayerfully turn away from the less-than-perfect material picture that is often presented to see the spiritual view.

Fred has participated in Special Olympics since he was in grade school, doing swimming, track, basketball, softball, and soccer. He really enjoys playing sports. The one sport that he has made the most progress in is horseback riding. I found out about therapeutic horsemanship through a riding stable near where we used to live in Ohio.

I've always loved horses and riding, and used to have horses of my own. This particular riding stable had a Family Fun Day every year, and we went for a visit. Fred got on a pony and went for a short ride. He seemed to enjoy it, so I enrolled him in the program. That began about 7 years of weekly lessons, and Fred learned a lot about horses and riding. He always enjoyed himself, and he was content to just go along for the ride, but he didn't make a lot of progress. He was in a class with 5 or 6 other students and was on a lead line most of the time, with a volunteer leading the horse.

In 2010, our family moved west to Nevada. One of the first things I researched was therapeutic horsemanship programs. I found one that looked like a good match, not too far from where we were to live. Fred has been riding at this ranch for over 2 years now, and his progress has been amazing! He rides most of the time independently. At his last lesson, he was trotting his horse through poles in a pole-bending exercise -- without any help other than verbal instructions from his teacher. He is learning to communicate with his horse, and to maintain control in many maneuvers. It's just a joy to watch him ride! He is truly learning to be at one with his mount.

I give a lot of credit to the instructors at this ranch. They simply do not see limits for their students. I'm also profoundly moved by the love shown by the staff -- from the horse handlers to the side-walkers and instructors, they all express patience, compassion, and genuine love toward their students. It's been and continues to be, a marvelous experience. I always pray to see Fred without limits, and when he rides his horse, I see it most of all!