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“D” has been riding at Giant Steps for many years. He is non-verbal, but is very expressive and has his own way of communicating. When I began instructing him approximately a year ago, it was a challenge to create a meaningful connection between us. He is very balanced and has good posture when riding, but I had a hard time getting him to engage in class, and to progress from sitting on his horse and holding his reins to taking more ownership of his riding and following further directions. I knew he could do more, but how? D can get distracted sometimes, and clearly responds better to people with whom he is familiar. With that information, I made it my mission to get D an amazing and consistent volunteer to work with each week, and I set out to be as engaging as possible in class, to try and compete with distracting outside forces like tractors.

These two strategies really paid off, especially having a consistent volunteer. D has progressed from needing physical assistance from his volunteers to pull back on the reins to halt his horse, to doing so with just a hand tap, and now sometimes with just a verbal cue. D will also use his reins to steer his horse now with just visual cues from his volunteers. This is huge progress, and seeing his success has been so exciting for his whole team. It has been so great to see D become more engaged in class and to see him following directions. It also goes to show what a huge impact our volunteers make in terms of our clients’ success.