Reins of Life work a blessing to students
The last eight weeks, I have had the wonderful opportunity to witness the amazing bond between horses and children.
It started with eight special needs youths with a variety of personalities, some not even wanting to be near the horses, much less touch them.
Then with the gentleness of the therapy horses and the skill of Cheryl Harris and her volunteers, a miracle started to happen.
Cheryl and Steve Harris, Reins of Life founders and directors, have been working with people with disabilities in this community for the last 20 years using horses as a tool to effect healing in the lives of their clients.
The first day we went to the barn, located on Silver Shoals Road, we were introduced to the volunteers.
The students were divided into pairs, and with the guidance of their volunteer they met their horse and their horse met them.
The stiff arm pats very soon became loving strokes as the students were given instruction on how to groom their new friend, and the relaxed non-threatening way of the horses, soon put the youth more at ease.
As the weeks progressed the students learned more about the care of horses.
From catching them in the pasture, leading, stopping, how to back up their horse, even obstacle courses were set up.
Some of these exercises were used to demonstrate kinetic versus potential energy, tying into lessons on their grade level.
Each week saw the timid student, more confident, the quite student, more talkative.
I was seeing firsthand how Reins of Life was providing mental, physical, emotional, behavioral, and spiritual healing by harnessing the powerful connection between horses and people.
The next to the last visit, was the day they would get to ride their horse.
It was quiet on the bus that morning as we drove out.
Some saying they couldn’t wait, others shaking and saying they didn’t think they could.
They groomed their horse as usual, and then the helmets came out, and something wonderful happened.
I saw them one by one walk up to their horse, step up on the mounting block, some were hyperventilating, all were shaking, but the trust they had built up through the weeks was strong.
I walked beside many a smiling face that day, but the one that will stay with me is a little girl holding onto the horn with a death grip as her horse was led around the ring.
I looked up and told her how proud I was of her, and she was doing an awesome job.
The next thing I knew she had lifted one hand above her head, then her other.
She was giving the champion sign. I looked at her face and there were tears rolling down her face and the most brilliant smile!
I was so blessed to be a part of this program, and thank Stephens County schools for letting us participate.
Reins of Life depends on donations, local support, volunteers, and grant funding to provide what is necessary to run their programs.
All of their horses and tack, facility, and pasture space are donated.
To make a donation and for more information of how you can take part in this program, go to www.reinsoflife.net.
(Letty Beatty is a SPED paraprofessional at Stephens County Middle School.)