I want hippotherapy.

While I’ve never really been an avid fan of horseback riding, there’s something appealing about it.  I have gone riding a few times.  I do like horses.  I never importuned my parents for a pony, as I knew it would be more realistic for me to run away and join the circus than for my mother to allow any more pets.  But there’s still an attraction.  I collected unicorns.  I learned to draw a horse realistically before any other animal.  I fantisized about being The Man from Snowy River.

While it’s too late in life for me to be a champion jockey now, there is something still there.  I think it has something to do with syncing the rhythm of your body to that of another being.  It’s the same kind of exhilaration that comes from being part of a smooth crew team.  Pulling in that rhythm as one does something to the mind, connecting you in sensation and experience.  You and the horse or you and the team are feeling the same movements, feeling the same air stirring around you, adjusting your bodies to fit each other’s movements.  While I don’t quite understand how that adjustment connects us, it indicates some sort of subliminal ties.

Perhaps that’s why therapy on horseback, or hippotherapy (not hypnotherapy), is becoming more popular for children.  Now, i know all of you are asking what the ‘potamuses have to do with horses, but never fear, I will explain.  Hippos means horse in Greek, and hippopotamus means ‘water horse’.  Personally I think they could’ve gone with something closer to manatee, like manapotamus (water cow) or ‘river beast’, however you say that in Greek.  Calling a hippo a horse is like calling an elephant a dog.  Sure, they could both be pets named Rover, but one can nap at the foot of your bed and the other one needs a barn to sleep in.

So far hippotherapy being used in conjunction with other forms of therapy to correct problems with vision and sensory perception as well as balance.  If you think about it, it makes sense.  You need an acute sense of balance to stay on top of a moving object like a horse.  Some of us (Hello, my name is Stacey) need an acute sense of balance to continually stand upright.  Same thing goes for sensory and visual perception.  Horseback riding broadens the range of experiences in these areas, forcing your brain to learn.  But what most parents are saying is that the therapeutic value is even more intense in regards to emotions.  Children might not necessarily be excited to go to therapy.  It can be frustrating, and can ruin a good mood.  But what kid doesn’t want to get up on a horse?  It’s a mood booster as well as a therapeutic exercise.  a) I want that and b) when and for how long will my health insurance cover it?

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Swindle them blind.

There’s a nefarious evil pervading our culture that I was unaware of until today.  It’s worse than the dryer monster that steals one sock from a matched pair.  It’s worse than the Fuzzo Makers who stuff lint into the pockets of innocent passers-by.  It’s even worse than coins that feel like dimes in your pockets, but somehow turn themselves into virtually useless pennies on the way out.  The Evil?  The U.S. Treasury, a last stanchion against the rights of blind people everywhere U.S. currency is held.

While I personally have no problem with our current bills, even if they are in pastel tints, I can see the problems they might cause for someone who can’t see.  Checking the change you receive (and let’s face it, everyone makes mistakes, even cashiers) becomes a problem.  A simple comment of ‘You only gave me ten” could lead to self-doubt and possible self-esteem issues.  In addition, it makes people easier to cheat, leading those people perhaps into bitter, sheltered lives.  And nobody likes that, except for swindlers.

Honestly, it surprises me that the question hasn’t come up earlier.  Sure, the current suit started in 2002, but with all the access ramps for wheelchairs and other equalizing activities going on in the 1990s, you’d think someone would’ve spoken up.  What really irks is that the Treasury hasn’t actually just insituted something new that addresses this problem.  I mean, you’ve had 6 years.  You knew you were going to lose.  It could even be a way to save some of the loads of money you’re losing on minting new coins, if you planned it out right.  So get to it!

That makes me think – there should definitely be a movie (or spoof?) about a blind man who breaks a money laundering/counterfeiting ring.  Kinda like that blind swordsman Asian movie, with less blood and more spy.  I definitely see the blind guy doing the slide across the hood of his car at least once, possibly missing it or falling off the edge if he does it more than once.  Oh yeah.

The 5 Senses Garden

Sometimes it takes only a moment, or image, sound, or smell to remind you of a dream you had long forgotten. For me, it took last night’s crazy dreams to remind me of the garden I had at one time hoped to create. Sometimes it takes people under curses, tiny monkeys, 17th century ghosts and defending yourself with pointy rubberized action figures to shock you out of the humdrum of everyday existence.  Whatever it takes, there are moments at which our fondest dreams rush back to us all at once with a familiar sigh.

For me, one of these dreams has been a garden, artistic in form and intent, that would be truly accessible for all.  I do not yet have a name for this place, a name for what this garden might be, but occasionally flashes of it come back to me.  I hear the sound of windchimes – metallic, shell and wood.  I smell the distinct notes of flowers, each exuding its aura from a different direction, mingling gently with the prevailing breeze.  I am led not only by paths beneath my feet, but by waves of color, the softness of a particular type of grass, the desire to touch the spiky hairs of some unknown moss.  An though many of the logistical issues remain unanswered (how to make roses touchable to the blind?  how to make walkways texturally interesting for the feet, but not difficult for the wheelchair?  how to include more tactile experience without compromising safety or legal regulations? How to include taste?), it is these questions in particular which lead me to re-envision this dream.

It’s not exactly a new idea.  Gardens for the visually impaired have been around since at least the 70s and probably longer.  A touch and smell garden opened in India in 2001 and another in Augusta in 2005.  A ‘Garden of Five Senses’ was begun in 2003, also in India.  Yet all of these seem to leave something wanting.  Do these gardens for the visually impaired truly address the needs of those without hearing?  Does a garden of the five senses draw in those who don’t have the use of their legs in the same way it draws in those who do?  Can it?  Hopefully someday I’ll have the master plan for one that does, and be able to implement it.