Therapeutic Riding: Teaching Special Needs Children and the World About Confidence
Confessions of a Timid Rider,  Equestrian Life

Therapeutic Riding: Teaching Special Needs Children About Confidence

Confidence can be intrinsic and learned. Some of us are lucky enough to be born with a sense of self-worth that parents foster and grow. Other children need to gain this along the way. Cameron was born with confidence and a stroke. Our job as parents is to support this and perpetuate it, within reason. Therapeutic horse riding has fostered her and nurtured her, all while teaching her to listen to her body and her horse.


Therapeutic Riding: Teaching Special Needs Children and the World About Confidence

Once or twice a year Cameron’s barn, Sunnyside Equestrian Center and her program, Special People United to Ride (SPUR) meet and compete with other therapy facilities across the state at the Horse Park of New Jersey, in conjunction with the Special Olympics of New Jersey. While I have competition nerves for a week beforehand, it’s just another day to my daughter.


I asked her about it, and her response was “It is like a soccer game. My lessons are practice. A horse show is the game day.” It makes perfect sense to me and somehow makes it less threatening. I will admit that my almost-1o-year-old is wiser than her years.


That isn’t to say she doesn’t get nervous. Sunny is a large Palomino Appendix gelding that she has ridden this session and one other. I know Sunny well, he is one of my massage clients. In fact, he’s one that is always thinking and takes a long time to build trust. As such I will admit that I was nervous when she started working with him. Sunny can lack confidence. Cameron can have too much confidence. And they balance each other out.


He’s not used to being on lead for her division and did not like having to wait his turn to trot. However, Cameron was as cool as a cucumber and handled him superbly.


Therapeutic Riding and Confidence


I have often said that Cameron is the strongest person I know. Last year when I posted my article, My Daughter is My Hero, I only published it because my daughter insisted. I wrote it for myself, and for her. But she wanted to share it with the world. Not for glory or fame, but “I hope it will help others”. I cannot ask for a better child.


Therapeutic Riding: Teaching Special Needs Children and the World About Confidence


So last weekend, she insisted we do a follow-up interview on camera to that post. My husband gave the okay and filmed it for us after she won Third Place out of eight riders.



It is no secret that therapeutic riding has touched my family greatly. My daughter has Cerebral Palsy and has benefitted from horse riding for almost 6 years. Her goal? To be a Grand Prix jumper; a Pop Star; and a Mother. The reality is, like any other child she has hopes and dreams for the future. None of them are impeded by her special needs. She is my hero. More, she is wiser than so many of us, in so many ways. I would never wish her any different.


If you would like to learn more about Cameron, read My Daughter is My Hero, and share her confidence with someone who may need it.


  • Ally

    Heather, this is such a beautiful post. Your daughter sounds like she is wise beyond her years, and could teach all of us a thing or two about nerves, confidence and determination.

    Congratulations to her on the 3rd place!

    • Heather Wallace

      Thank you Ally! She is so much wiser than I sometimes realize. Having dinner with her is like looking into the future, and I don’t want her to grow up so fast. But her reality is that she is living with something that makes her strong and mature beyond her years. I’m so glad that she wants to help others. I’m so proud. And I’ll tell her you say congratulations!

  • Pam Levy

    This is lovely. I firmly believe ten year old girls have a lot to teach us about horses and about life. Cameron, even as an “almost-ten-year-old” proves me right. xx

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