“that day I decided that I would have to terminate my six year long engagement with the band program in order to fulfill my commitment to Luke”
When I first started working with SIRE in the spring of 2015, I had absolutely no experience working with people with disabilities, and I did not know what to expect from my rider. My first experience was with Luke. I remember being so charmed with Luke from the beginning, because he said please every time he commanded the horse to “walk on,” and he listened attentively during the class. At the time, Luke needed one side walker. I had to take the fall semester off for marching band, so I did not see Luke for a bit, which was rough for me after working with him and seeing him grow.
In the spring of 2016, I returned as Luke’s leader, and I was so impressed by the progress he had made. He had progressed beyond side-walkers and was managing the horse all on his own. This was a significant development from our first semester together, and he continues to progress and learn rapidly. Luke is so excited to be on his horse, Gypsy, and doing it all himself, but we are still a team even though I might just watch him from the center of the arena. The first time he trotted on Gypsy, I was waiting for him at the other end of the arena, and I watched him trot towards me with a smile that his face could scarcely contain.
Riding independently has been an exciting experience for Luke, and I consider myself very lucky to have been a part of his growth into the rider he is today. Last week, Luke stopped while we were going through a trail pattern and told me simply, “Luke is happy.” Normally his giggles give away his pleasure, but this was the first time he explicitly stated that he was enjoying his lesson.
My whole week was made by that one expression of joy, and that day I decided that I would have to terminate my six year long engagement with the band program in order to fulfill my commitment to Luke. Luke is not the only one who has learned from these two years together; I have learned the value of becoming involved in my community and that people with disabilities are considered “special” for a reason.