My husband and I decided to sign our son up for therapeutic riding because the school system had cut Nick's occupational therapy minutes in half. We knew that if the school didn't supply him with some sort of therapy, then we needed to take the initiative to do it ourselves.

Nick is six and is on the pervasive development disorder spectrum (probably high-functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome). We thought that horseback riding would help him with his hand-eye coordination, sensory integration problems, and fine and gross motor delays.

Therapeutic riding has definitely helped our son. We have also found that it has added bonuses. It assists him with auditory processing problems, the ability to process multiple directions (and respond in real time), and self-confidence.

Nick is old enough to realize that he is somehow different. He goes to school, where appropriate handwriting and socializing with peers are things that are very hard for him. He has to struggle to keep up with other children. With horseback riding, none of us know of any six year olds with which to compare him. Horseback riding offers the family an activity where his accomplishments are never qualified (i.e., "good for a child with autism").

I do have to say that therapeutic riding has touched our son in a way that I never would have expected. Nick's teacher was eager to show me a story that he wrote and illlustrated. He wrote, "If dinosaurs came back, they could help handicapped people." And he drew a picture of a big dinosaur with saddle and reins who was carrying a person in a wheelchair on its back.

We have never discussed with Nick the fact that therapeutic riding is for people with disabilities. Although he occassionally sees the lady who has a lesson before him (she uses a wheelchair), we have never specifically commented on the purpose of her riding. I was incredibly proud that Nick noticed and understood what Circle of Hope's volunteers mean for people with disabilities.

Learning how to ride is actually at the bottom of the list of all the wonderful things that Nick has learned and accomplished by being part of the Circle of Hope family.