04/23/2014 03:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What I Learned From a Little Boy Who Fell Off His Horse


Last year I began volunteering at a place called We Can Ride. It offers therapeutic horseback riding for people living with disabilities or special needs.

I originally began volunteering there because I loved the idea of being around horses every week and getting to hopefully help some really cool kids learn to ride.

I started in the spring session and immediately realized how amazing the riders truly were. Originally I was worried I wasn't qualified to work with the kids or help with their riding lessons, but I soon discovered the biggest component of the program was just stepping aside to let the riders truly shine and demonstrate their abilities.

It's a blessing to get to watch these kids come week after week and master something they were struggling with the week previous or see the smiles on the parents' faces as their children go trotting around the arena.

One week in particular I was working with a young boy with autism when his horse suddenly spooked. The horse reared, and the woman leading the horse fell over. The boy held on but when the horse came back down he gently fell off the side. We caught him before he hit the ground, but the damage was done. He was completely frightened.

Luckily his mom was there to soothe him. At this point most other parents probably would have cursed, or yelled, or headed for the car, but she didn't.

His mother had ridden as young girl and was understanding of the situation. She didn't blame us leaders or even the horse. She simply told the boy that the horse had been frightened and subtly implied that the horse's feelings would be hurt if the boy didn't get back on and continue riding.

It took a while, but after enough encouragement the boy got back on the horse and tentatively finished his ride.

The next week the boy came back for another lesson. Shocked, I watched as he confidently mounted the horse and told me, "It wasn't the horse's fault last week -- he got scared." And if that wasn't enough he went on to say, "If I fall again this week, I will just throw my head back and laugh."

Wow. It was enough for me to realize that the things that throw us off balance every day are actually much smaller than they seem. Maybe we can even laugh our way through them.