Story of The Week 10/31/2016
10/31/2016 Story of The Week
By Jessie Phillips, Central Vermont Council on Aging Volunteer Outreach Manager
I completed my Independent Service Project at Rhythm of the Rein therapeutic riding facility. The mission of the program is to use Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT) to enhance the well-being of individuals with physical, cognitive and emotional challenges.
My role was to help facilitate the therapeutic riding lessons by leading the horse or walking beside the rider to help with balance. The riders had various goals that they were working on during the riding lessons. Some riders were nonverbal, which meant that I had to be very attentive to the rider at all times to gauge how they were feeling based on their behaviors. There were also icons such as walk, stop and X (which meant that the rider wanted to be done for the day) attached to a blanket around the horse's neck that a rider could point to in order to communicate.
Throughout my independent service project I assisted with a number of lessons with one individual who was non-verbal. He would often ride for about 15 minutes or less, and would sometimes end his ride agitated as evidenced by certain noises and hand movements.
My last day at Rhythm of the Rein was an absolutely beautiful sunny day. The lesson began, and I noticed a great big smile on this gentlemen’s face. His smile stayed as the lesson transitioned from riding inside to going outside on some trails. Every few minutes the instructor would check in with him to see if he still wanted to ride, and he continued to press the green “walk” icon.
He rode for a total of 30 minutes, and the smile never left his face. I noticed that I, too, was smiling throughout his whole ride as I saw the joy he was receiving from being on a horse. Although I was sad to be completing my Independent Service Project, I will have the memory of that final lesson for years to come.