I’m one of the summer interns at the Ecuador site and I’ve just finished my first week here in Sangolqui and both Ecuador and Manna have superseded my expectations. This is my first visit to South America and the area has been beautiful, the people have been friendly, and programs have been fulfilling. As I am getting into the swing of things with the programs I will be helping with I am looking forward to spending the next three weeks here and getting to know the people we work with.
One of the programs I have assisted with is horse therapy for children with special needs through an Ecuadorian organization called Antorcha de Vida. This organization provides care, classes, and other resources to children with disabilities. Once a week the children do horse therapy, where they ride horses at a local military base. We helped the kids on the horses and then led the horses around the field as the kids enjoyed the ride and did stretching exercises at the instruction of a soldier who is trained in horse therapy. The kids also laid on their backs and stomachs on top of the horse. The theory behind the therapy is that the motion and energy of riding a horse is beneficial for the kids physically, mentally, and emotionally. I do not know anything about the research behind it but the kids certainly enjoyed it a lot.
From the outside, a slow walk around a field on a horse once a week might not seem like that big of a deal, but for these kids it means a lot more. These kids never get time to do independent activities so going to a place besides home or the center and do something active is something they really look forward to. Some of them had to overcome and work through either fear or physical disabilities to complete the ride but every single one of them did it. This is one way that they get to challenge themselves and figure out their capabilities. Not to mention it is a whole lot of fun. In the final section of the ride we got the horses to run with the kids on them. The kid’s faces lit up into wide smiles and they screamed with delight. After three hours of leading a horse around a field my shoes were soaking wet, I was sun burnt and tired, but it was all worth it when all the kids gave me big hugs afterwards. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing them next week and do it all over again.