Walk On: The Story of Grant and Godfrey
by Sarena and Raphael James
He’s not going to do it. That’s what the fear in his eyes said. That’s what the uncertainty in his rapid heartbeat said. His feet backed up those sentiments, literally. From a cautious distance he pointed, unsure of what lay ahead. There in the middle of the green stable stood an animal that before this moment was only real in his pop-up picture books, or a plastic figurine in the bottom of the toy box made alive by his imagination.
The horse’s name was Godfrey, a well-groomed beautiful brown horse with one blue eye, and one brown eye.
My heart smiled to hear my son speak. We cheered at the simple acknowledgement of that one word from him; proof that he knew exactly what animal was there with us.
“Horse got a haircut.”
Through Grant’s eyes I could see this truth, as the horse’s mane and tail were much bushier than the hair on his body that lay smooth. Becoming more comfortable with every one of his accurate observations, he began to voluntarily tip-toe toward the large horse again… until he saw the gargantuan size of his teeth. Godfrey opened his mouth wide biting into a fresh carrot and the sight and sound of him crunching was a little too much. Grant quickly covered his ears, ran full speed ahead to the nearest cluster of trees, and slowly peered around the trunk.
The kind man who was holding the bag of carrots assured Grant that it was okay, and asked him to try to feed Godfrey. “No. No feed horse. Not now.” I paused to savor the unmistakable beauty of the moment. I didn’t have to answer for my son; he answered the question for himself. He was able to comprehend and assess his feelings. He was able to speak. He was having a conversation with someone else. I only had to listen and stay in the moment with him.
We learned more about the farm from the heart of the people who work and volunteer there. Their stories were just amazing and filled with hope as they told their eye-witness accounts of the relationship between horses and children with autism. They told of how the horses develop a relationship with each rider and learn how to walk or trot and even stop based on the individual need of the rider. The chickens, the ponds, the ducks, the grass, the stories, I was beginning to get lost in the entire beauty of this place, when a quiet interruption changed everything.
“Ride horse, please.”
It was as if his spoken words were caught-up by a subtle wind and I literally felt the entire atmosphere shift. Grant put on his helmet with no difficulty, and mounted the horse with ease. Within minutes he and Jamie and Godfrey began their journey. The only special need there was, was to believe that it could and would happen in time; his time. He’s doing it. I will never forget the pure joy that accompanied us as we walked and skipped and laughed and smiled along the trail as Grant and Godfrey galloped. I stayed in that exact moment for hours, not behind it, not in front of it. I stayed with the spontaneous rhythm of his laughter and photographed every moment with my heart, framing it in joy.
He learned balancing techniques. He learned to reach across his median. He learned that communication works with animals as well. He found more confidence. He found more freedom. He found another part of himself that was full of goodness. He found more life. “Walk on, Godfrey.” That’s what Grant said every time he wanted Godfrey to go. Walk on; I suppose that is the lesson for all of us.
There is an unmistakable laughter that comes from the belly of the soul that finally conquers their fear. Grant laughed so hard, we cried at the beauty of his new-found freedom. There on the ranch was the most beautiful SONrise, as he galloped lap after lap in an unknown breeze. I am not privy to the conversation his heart and mind had to have in order for him to find his own strength and courage. Grant and Godfrey; a moment forever framed in immeasurable peace and light.
He did it.