When my parents told me that my brother Jordan, who has Down Syndrome, was going to start horseback riding, I was a bit skeptical. Equestrian activities were something I never would have considered as a possibility for Jordan. The first thing I thought about were scenes like those shown on television, with obstacles to go around and jumps to clear, and I was certain that was something that would only lead to an injury. Beyond the possibility of injury, I did not think it would be something he would enjoy. I was quite wrong, and he has been riding for several years now. He began riding at Cowboy Dreams, and with the help of their enthusastic staff he has made steady improvements.
The activites at Cowboy Dreams, of Barrington Hills, Illinois, are not designed to prepare individuals to clear hedges or jump over obstacles. The riding sessions at Cowboy Dreams provide hippotherapy for up to 200 children annually. The basis of hippotherapy relies on the repetitive movement of the horse, paired with a trained professional, to benefit the individual. Cowboy Dreams utilizes the services of over 100 volunteers, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, and a speech/language pathologist to serve the needs of children with a wide range of diagnoses.
Since my brother began riding a few years ago, he has better motor control, vocalizes more often, and always has a huge grin when he gets on the back of a horse. He now participates in the equestrian events for the Special Olympics, and each week you can see his smile when the riding helmet comes out, and the car ride to the horses begins.