Last weekend while my wife and Vivi were in Utah, I had the opportunity to volunteer for the Edelweiss Equine-Assisted Therapy Center, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, by helping clean and prepare the facilities for the summer season. Edelweiss provides therapeutic horseback riding services for the handicapped and has also recently started a Horses for Heroes program. I also serve on Edelweiss’s Board of Directors, and I had been assured by the other directors that I would be able to bring Addie along with me for any Edelweiss event and she would fit in just fine.
Nearly a decade ago, I also had the opportunity to be a volunteer at the North Haven Therapeutic Riding Center in Gowanda New York. My time as a volunteer at North Haven is what convinced me that these equine-assisted therapy centers are great tools to help the handicapped in a number of ways. It was because of the progress I saw in the handicapped kids at North Haven and the enjoyment plastered on their faces that convinced me that joining the Board of Directors at Edelweiss ten years later was the right thing to do. My experience at North Haven was also my first real time spent up close and personal with horses. One of the first things I learned about horses was that horses bite and they bite hard. As a result of being bitten several times by horses at North Haven, I quickly developed a pretty strong fear of horses.
When it came time to for me make an appearance at Edelweiss’s facilities with Addie last weekend, my fear of horses was front and center. Addie has a bad habit of not listening when it comes to animals. She loves animals and she wants to hug them, hold them, shove them in boxes, shout at them, boss them around, and pretty much anything a seven year old can do to play with an animal. The problem is that horses do not react well to being hugged, shoved or surprised. My other fear involved Addie’s propensity to declare the gender of the horses to anyone who may be within a 50 foot radius of the horses.
While attending the Indiana State Fair when Addie was four years old, Addie realized that male horses looked different than female horses. Not that their bodies looked different or their faces looked different, but their, um, bellies looked different. Addie asked why one of the horse’s bellies looked the way it did and she was told it was because it was a boy horse. From that time forward every time Addie saw a male horse she would quickly and loudly shout, “dad, it’s a boy horse.” It even got to the point where she was mainly looking at horses so she could see if the horse was a male horse or a female horse. Her interest in the male horses got so bad that while we were in Louisville for a family trip, Addie approached several artistic painted horse statues that had been placed around the city and she would proceed to grab the, um, portion of the horse that identified it as a male horse. Getting pictures of the family with some of these artistic statues without Addie holding onto the statue’s male genitalia became extremely difficult.
As was expected, Addie was nearly bitten by a small pony named Starry Wonder while I volunteered at Edelweiss. Thankfully, by that point I was able to convince Addie that ice cream was more interesting than horses. Also, Addie ended up focusing most of her energy on convincing people to allow her to help groom and ride the horses than identifying the gender of the horse. Next time, however, she may catch a glimpse and remember her self-made hobby.
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