The pupils were a group of post 16-year-olds, with a variety of additional needs, including some physical difficulties (prosthetic leg, poor sight, a back rod), Downs syndrome, ASD and global delay. They are studying a course on animal care and linked the Riding for Smiles session opportunity to their work. Only one pupil had ever ridden a horse before, so the session provided a completely new experience for the pupils. All arrived happy and excited and relatively confident. They behaved impeccably well and presented with no behaviour difficulties.
Once vests and hats had been fitted, they were placed into 2 groups of 4. One group rode while the other group groomed a pony, then the 2 groups changed activity. All pupils listened well though some had poor language skills and therefore had limited understanding of instructions. This, along with limited mobility for 2 pupils, made mounting challenging. However, with a lot of support and encouragement all managed the task successfully and without any upset (we needed 3 people to assist each pupil). One boy, who is awaiting a diagnosis on epilepsy was unable to ride due to safety reasons. He walked alongside his group, with a staff member, when trekking rather than groom twice. The school had brought 3 members of staff which was helpful as 2 were needed to “sidewalk” one pupil who was quite nervous to begin with. She soon relaxed, however, once out on the trek. All pupils returned to the yard smiling, happy and pleased with themselves for their achievement.
All pupils were confident enough to enter the stable and stroke, then brush a pony. Pupils, as expected, had short attention and concentration skills and task application was only a few minutes. However, they did want to keep coming back to it after small breaks. For many, the sensual feeling of simply stroking the horse was enjoyable and satisfying.
All pupils finished the session in a happy content manner, saying they had enjoyed their time with us and wanted to come again.
School staff were astounded at how we had managed to get the pupils onto a horse to ride on the first visit and were incredibly happy with the session and the experience. They all thought it was extremely beneficial to the pupils in terms of life experience, enjoyment, and links to the curriculum.