While this may look like something common enough in the world of equine therapy, please hear me when I say it is anything but common. This represents the culmination of over 13 years of working with the horse and over 4 years working with the boy.
Finally, finally, he was able to relax enough in both mind and muscles to fall asleep. This from a child whose sleep is often riddled with seizures. It brought tears and smiles and high fives all around.
Some Time for Horse Love
Doesn’t this just warm your heart? It is all the more special when you realize that this is Puma’s first time working with a child with special needs, and the first time this child has been able to get ‘on’ a horse. What could be better than that?
The two of them just bonded instantly. Puma followed him around in the arena as he worked with Marque. When they actually came together, it was amazing to watch. Puma was perfectly content to let him sit or lie on her as she rested on the ground. What an exceptional experience!
Please Don’t Go!
Usually, the kids leave with their families after a ride and that’s that. Not today! This time Marque had a special good-bye for one of our regular participants, so he just stuck his head right into the door for some last minute lovin’.
BWC2 has long observed that our rescued horses exhibit behavioral traits similar to those of our veterans and first responders suffering from PTSD. For both the animals and the humans, their trigger can be the slightest touch, sight or sound.
A study published by the University of Western Ontario demonstrates what we have observed for years. Fear of predators leaves long lasting changes in the brains of wild animals, leading to changes in behavior similar to those seen in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in humans.
The researchers were able to prove for the first time that the changes in a wild animal’s brain during the ‘fight or flight’ response actually leave traces in the brain long after the immediate response. Interestingly enough, biomedical researchers have begun suggesting that PTSD is a natural outcome of our having inherited a portion of the human brain that prioritizes survival over the quality of life, what some people refer to as the reptilian brain.
Researchers have also noted that predators do not necessarily have to kill their prey to affect the overall population. Just the trauma brought on by fear changes the animals’ behavior.
A lot can happen in ten years. A child born ten years ago would be in 4th grade now, and we all know how much that child has grown and changed. Ten years ago, we were elbow deep in the Great Recession. In 2009
Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States.
Slumdog Millionaire won for Best Film.
Sulley landed a US Airways flight for the ‘miracle on the Hudson’, and
BWC2 was launched!!
In the years since…
The Apple iPad made its debut.
Osama Bin Laden died.
Queen Elizabeth celebrated her Golden Jubilee.
The European Union was formed.
During that same period, BWC2…
started working with a 10-year-old boy on the autism spectrum in 2009.
heard 9 non-verbal children speak for the first time.
spent thousands of hours working with American veterans and first responders who have anxiety, PTSD, TBI or have undergone an amputation.
saw veterans begin sleeping through the night.
expanded the kids’ program to include children with Down syndrome, ADHD and Cerebral Palsy.
A recent article notes that Kevin Pelphrey, a neuroscientist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, suggests the perception of ‘affective touch’ may uncover a cause of autism, or, at the very least, provide an early detection tool.
The article goes on to distinguish between discriminative touch, which conveys signals about pressure, vibration and stretching of the skin, and affective touch signals, which register in emotion centers in the brain.
Evidently, these affective touch signals give emotional context to physical contact; they relay the warm feelings that can come with a pat on the shoulder from a friend, for example, or the prickly, uncomfortable feeling that can occur when we bump into a stranger.
In this way, the fibers serve as a mode of communication between people, a channel not of physical information but of intimacy. “These fibers are signaling something that isn’t really touch; it’s something we don’t have a name for,” says Håkan Olausson, professor of clinical neuroscience at Linköping University in Sweden, who co-discovered the fibers in people in the 1980s. Much of a baby’s sense of the world is conveyed through touch. They are cradled, rocked, cuddled, patted and stroked. If babies’ perceptions of these touches are altered in some way, it could transform how they situate themselves in the world and learn to interact with others. Those changes, in turn, could account for autism’s hallmark social challenges. It is far too early in the research to make any firm connections, but contributors to this article all acknowledge some version of this concept