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Yes, My Son With Down Syndrome Can Ride a Horse

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My husband signed the three of us up to go horseback riding. It was last minute, within 24 hours of the ride, and neither one of us really thought to tell them that my son has Down syndrome. On the way over, we talked about it with Raymond and he said, “I can do this!”

We agreed to let him try.

We watched a quick 10-minute video that the owner had created. It showed some of the path and talked about what to expect, setting clear expectations for everyone. And then we were ready!

When my son was younger, he had taken over three years of hippotherapy, so we knew that he could it. But we also knew that we needed him to be confident in himself!

As the team started to load up the horses, they picked a specific, gentle horse for my son. He was loaded early, and was brought around the corner out of my sight. I started to panic, thinking maybe I had given him too much credit. Would this work? What if he falls off? What if we end up chasing his horse through the woods? What if, what if, what if?

As I was finally put into the saddle and led around the corner, I saw my son. He looked so proud sitting there in his saddle and he waved to me. He was so excited!

I looked over to the leader of the ride, and he rode up next to me and said, “He’s ridden before, hasn’t he?” I said yes, and was still talking as he rode away. I realized this man knew he had ridden before. He had no worries, and knowing that he’s seen it all, I should be OK with it too. He felt confident in my son — so should I.

I took a deep breath and off we went.

The ride was fantastic. We rode through the woods and to a beach area. Did I mention it was sunset? It was stunningly beautiful! I was able to enjoy the ride, be present in the moment, and relax.

This isn’t to say that little things didn’t occur along the way. My son’s horse, while very sweet, was also a nibbler — meaning she would take every opportunity to stop and have a bite of leaves. A few other times, she went off course, and suddenly my son was behind me instead of in front of me. But we took them in stride, explaining to him how to get back on course and helping him through it. We considered them small bumps in the road, instead of making mountains out of them.

It was a fantastic ride. It was also a learning lesson for us — go with the flow. Set up clear expectations and prep as much as possible. And mostly — if he thinks he can, he will!

Originally published: July 6, 2022
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