Learning new life skills with animals

By Erin Rose 4th September 2019 Help & Advice

This prim, immaculately dressed little girl, who we were meeting for the first time wanted to see the family pony.  At the yard she complained about the smell, the noise and generally scared by the size of the horses – Barbies pony wasn’t this big!

Fast-forward 18 months.  That shy little wallflower has grown in every way. 

Emotionally, being around horses has had a big impact on her healing. Grooming the family pony she would talk quietly to him, she often shared ‘secrets’ with him.

 Who was he going to tell?  He wasn’t going to judge her!

Riding has helped build her confidence, she has learnt to face fear and uncertainty but also to control these emotions so that the horse doesn’t scare.  Many people don’t realise horses mirror the emotions of the rider, and so when she reacts, so does he. This has allowed her to visually learn how to handle her emotions in a hands-on way. 

When she first came to us she couldn’t read or write. We began schooling at the yard.

How many legs or ears does pony have?

How many does the whole heard have?

It was a bit of fun but she was learning to count. We then progressed onto pulse and heartbeats. During her riding lessons, she had to quickly learn points of the ménage. This helped teach her the alphabet and sounds. Learning this was important, without it she would not be able to memorise complicated tests or routes.

Over time being around people at the yard has also helped build her confidence and brought her out of her shell. She can now hold a conversation with any adult or child and has secured relationships alongside those from school.

At first this little girl was “lazy” and would be very happy sitting in front of the TV all day. She didn’t know any different. Caring for the horse gave her a purpose to get out.  Without even realising she was exercising. Walking up and down the fields, and of course, riding.

Her first lesson was a disaster, she had no balance or strength but over time this has improved and she can now multi-task. Riding develops coordination e.g. using hands, legs, seat and torso all at the same time.

Riding teaches children things don’t always go their way. Ponies don’t always do as they are asked. This sport teaches negotiating skills. Children learn when to ask and when to tell, and more importantly in which situation. Developing these skills is essential when growing up as each skill can be used in the outside world and continue with them into their adult life. A fun activity, that teaches life skills without her noticing. Skills that will help her succeed. Being able to teach these skills to young people is what really makes being a Foster Carer rewarding and worth it all.

Calon Cymru understood how important this was to me and the benefits of teaching her to ride could produce. After agreeing on safety equipment, completing risk assessments, and obtaining permission from her social worker.  I was given the go-ahead.

My supervising social worker recently attended a competition. I can’t begin to tell you how elated she was that someone had taken the time to watch her.

This is the reason Calon Cymru are so successful. They go the extra mile.   

*Foster Carer’s name has been changed for privacy reasons.

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