by Becky Gurnick, Gompers Private School (GPS) Director of Special Education
Providing GPS special needs students opportunities to experience new situations is important to their education and life-skills training.
Recently, professional trainer Tony Diaz of Special Arabian Training Center invited GPS to tour his Arabian show barn. The trip allowed the students to experience the benefits of community integration while supporting their social, academic, sensory and therapeutic needs.
Our students, teachers, paraprofessionals, parents, and speech therapist spent two and half hours learning about the horses. They toured the barn, learned the difference between males and females, quarter horses and Arabians, and the horse terms associated with identifying a stallion, mare, filly, gelding, colt and foal.
The most exciting part of the morning was riding Coco, a beautiful Arabian horse. Coco is owned by one of our teachers for the hearing impaired from Phoenix Union School District. She was kind enough to give permission for everyone who wanted a ride to get one! After touring the open barn area, the students moved over to the round pen (small round area used to train horses), where the students were led around on Coco. Using a mounting block, the students stepped up on the mounting block, lifted their left foot into the stirrup, swung their right leg over the back of the horse and sat down into the saddle. With their feet tucked in the stirrup, holding one hand on the pommel and the other on the reins, they rode around with the biggest smiles you have ever seen. It was amazing to see their eyes light up! Their faces beaming with excitement and at every turn the students communicated the shear enjoyment of being on top of the world.
The excitement continued with a hands-on opportunity to meet little foal, Angel, who is only a month old. Tony brought out both mom and baby to see the GPS gang. It was so fun watching mom romp around with her baby dancing alongside; her long, lanky legs kicking up and down like a little puppet dancing around with her head in the air and heels toward the sky. The joy of watching the students laugh and giggle at this tiny foal dancing about was just priceless. Tony with his arm around Angel and momma horse by his side, allowed each student time to feel Angel’s little nose and soft, furry ears. One student even tried to kiss little Angel on the nose!
Following the mom and baby show, Tony brought out the show stallions. Their heads in the air, tails swishing, feet prancing, with glimmering coats in the sunlight, these beauties put on an amazing show for the students. Listening to every command, the stallions jumped about, arching their backs and striking a pose with every cue. This one-of-a-kind opportunity is typically only seen at the famous Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show.
This was truly a wonderful experience for everyone! A big thank you goes to Tony Diaz and the Arabian Training Center for making this a one of a kind show for our GPS gang!