Sharing Laughs and Singing Songs

Here are two easy teaching tips that can really help! Ok, not so much teaching tips as connecting-with-your-riders tips. Here you go!

Share Laughter

This was one of the most influential ideas I took from Claudine Pelletier-Milet’s book, Riding on the Autism Spectrum.  Laughing with someone creates a connection and a bond that is very important – even necessary – in your relationship. Her process is to first observe the child as they ride, and find some way to meet them where they are at, which often involves laughing at something together. I can’t find the quote, but she mentions that sharing laughter together, usually within the first few lessons, is a turning point in their relationship. Here is another quote, while it doesn’t apply to everyone, gets the point across:

“I watch like a hawk to see what interests him: the slightest flicker of interest shows me the way to go… I enter his strange world and share with him the adventure of learning to feel… I share his laughter…we bond, and this bonding is a necessary part in his efforts to rebuild himself, have rational thoughts, and display emotions when he needs do. Whereas formerly the only emotion they have allowed themselves is anxiety, there are not wonderful sensations to be enjoyed, like the rocking of the pony that reminds them of the time when all was still well, and the pleasurable adventures of friendship, laughter, and love.” (Pelletier-Milet, p. 167)

I’ve been amazed at the changes I’ve seen in my relationships with my riders with Autism when I watch them closely and find something to laugh at together. This usually means putting aside your own ideas. For example, the other day one of my riders was playing with the western saddle strings we had knotted up to keep out of the way. He usually needs a fidget toy and it was overly distracting, so I let him. Near the end of the lesson he actually got the strings untied, and started laughing so I laughed with him – partly because I thought aha here is a laughitunity, and partly because he was soooo happy with himself it made me really laugh, I felt his joy! We shared that fun moment, at some point I tied the string back up, and he has been so willing to engage the past few lessons. Afterward the sidewalker said that was not the reaction she would have had – she didn’t say it but I assume most sidewalkers would think oh no, the strings are untied, he’s not paying attention, fix it! And I might have had the same reaction had I not read that book.

You can also turn situations into opportunities to laugh. Today one of my riders was doing high fives while walking with me, but was wary to do it to the sidewalker. I couldn’t tell if he was being shy or silly, but it seemed silly, so I laughed about him being so tricky and silly, and he started laughing, and eventually high fived her. You could tell he enjoyed it.

This always highlights to me the importance of sharing experiences with your clients, not just giving them experiences. Typical adults tend to be very verbal, we connect by talking and sharing thoughts. Many of our clients are so physical, they experience the world through touching and smelling and seeing. To join them in the physical fun of laughter, to join them in the physical act of leaning over to hug and caress their horse, to join them in the experience that they are having – is huge for them, especially when they are usually expected to enter our world, not vice versa.

Sing Songs

If you don’t know the words, make it up! This has gotten exponentially easier for me since having a baby – you get a lot of practice. If you don’t have a baby, practice in the shower! Today my rider started crying and listening to his mom’s playlist usually helps, but instead I sang to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” the song (real name changed) “Buddy’s riding on his horse” and it was a quick change to happier. The nice thing about making up your own words is that you can talk about what’s happening or even continue teaching! Here’s an example, continuing the song I mentioned, to Twinkle Twinkle:

Buddy’s walking on his horse
Clover’s walking really fast
Buddy like the way it feels
So we keep on walking here
Buddy’s walking on his horse
Clover’s the best horse here of course!

Did I mention kids don’t usually care if you rhyme or not?

Another one I think they sang at a barn I used to volunteer at for hippotherapy went to the tune of “The Wheels On The Bus”:

Buddy’s riding on his horse,
on his horse,
on his horse,
Buddy’s riding on his horse,
All over the arena!
Around that blue cone!

Another one I just thought of:

If you’re riding and you know it, sit up tall!
If you’re riding and you know it, sit up tall!
If you’re riding and you know it, then your back will really show it,
If you’re riding and you know it, sit up tall!

So fun!

How have you experienced laughter while teaching? Any song ideas to add?


Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement! If you would like to contribute an activity or article, please contact me here, I would love to hear from you!

8 thoughts on “Sharing Laughs and Singing Songs

  1. Your post really opened up a world of sharing with my riders, thanks!

    In my previous program I used to sing a warm up song:

    If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands
    If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands
    If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it
    If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands

    If you’re happy and you know it touch your helmet
    If you’re happy and you know it touch your helmet, clap your hands

    Keep going with
    – touch your knees
    – pat your horse
    – touch the hindquarters
    – etc

    adding all the previous movements at the end.

    It worked really well with sone riders, until a certain age and especially when they don’t see the point of arm circles…!

    I hope it will inspire some of you!

  2. Thanks so much for your blogs! I’m a new teacher and you give me ideas and keep me motivated! PATH really should have more resources like this for their instructors! Please don’t stop!

    • Hi Annie, I’m so glad you find the blog helpful! I will do my best to keep posting 🙂 I see your program is in Puerto Rico – we wish you all the best in your recovery, we have been thinking of you and wish there was more we could do than donate.

  3. I use the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Hips” for a warm-up song with rider’s touching the areas on his/her body.
    Song is….
    Head, shoulders, knees and hips (changed song from toes to hips since touching toes might be a little tricky),
    knees and hips (place both hands on hips and bring shoulders back to improve posture),
    knees and hips,
    Head, shoulders, knees and hips, eyes, ears, mouth and nose.
    We start out slow and gradually increase speed.

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