A two-year old became afraid of a very experienced and sweet hippotherapy horse because the horse was shaking his head to ward off flies a month ago. The little guy grew so afraid that I had to take him off toward the end of the session. The next two sessions he was given a different horse and now a couple of weeks later was given the original shaking horse today. The child remembered his fear and the horse seemed to be shaking his mane more during this child's session (as compared to the kids I saw earlier in the morning) . I am wondering if the horse was shaking to see if he could induce a reaction much like a little kid would who is testing others. It almost seems like a personality conflict and I am going to request a different horse for next time.
On a more positive note, an almost 3 year old child with Down's Syndrome spontaneously pulled the reins to stop- a first and he was highly motivated to drop hoops rings over a cone. He was first sitting facing sideways and then I turned him around to sit facing forwards and he wanted to keep doing it. This was wonderful because he usually throws toys onto the ground instead of using them functionally. I put the toy pony shown in the picture at the left, inside the top of the cone so that I could hold the toy pony very close to him, almost guaranteeing success. This photo shows the hoop and pony toy that I used but today I positioned the pony stick in the opening at the top of the cone and so that when the child put the hoop over the pony toy it fell down the cone.
Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L author of, The Recycling Occupational Therapist