So I'm a side walker to Tabitha (name change). Tabitha is a happy, calm, quiet, not very pushy kind of person. Don't get me wrong, this girl does own a pair of sassy paints and will wear them. But she's very gentle. When I ask her to hit something she does it very gently for fear she will break something.
Lucinda, the horse only wears sassy pants. Or maybe sassy shoes? Lucinda is a strong, thick pony. And has one leader. Lucinda will only cooperate with her one leader. Yesterday they tried to have this tiny 8 year old lead her. Lucinda wouldn't move in the beginning, then she started nipping at the little girl. Then she stopped and started stomping her feet and shaking her head. I thought Tabitha might get bucked off. Quickly her regular handler came up and took over. Even with her typical handler she'll still nip or try to do something she knows she shouldn't. But her handler just gives her a good whack, and that's the end of it.
When we first got matched with her I stared at the director thinking
"Are you serious?"
But I kept my mouth shut knowing they know best. And they did. It's turned out to be a great match. This extremely gentle girl is being forced to be assertive, forceful, and yes, bossy.
Every time we pull up at the barn I ask her one thing:
"Who's in charge?"
She chuckles and smiles and says "I am."
She has to pull the reigns to get Lucinda to listen, not gently tug. She shouts the commands
No whispering, no "please walk on." What does this take?
I've seen a pretty confident girl go to extremely confident. And she's taking that confidence outside of horse therapy.
Had she been put on a quiet gentle horse she wouldn't need to shout or pull. She wouldn't have to learn to be confident in her demands and having those demands be met. It's been fantastic!
This program has been great not only for the rider but for me as well. As a simple side walker, I've learned to bite my tongue. To just enjoy the animals and the walk... And make sure Tabitha doesn't fall off the horse.
To learn more about the SPIRIT program go to: