Sight-impaired kids feel the power of Odysseo horses



Posted on March 12, 2014 at 5:31 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 13 at 7:54 AM

It's a show billed as one you have to see to believe. Under the big top at Marymoor Park in Redmond and behind the scenes at Odysseo, students see the show's stars in a different way-- because they're not necessarily seeing them at all.

"He's tall," observed 7-year-old Eli McCalmont.

But Eli can get a remarkable feel for how they move, how they smell, how they communicate. Odysseo's touch tour allows children from the Talking Book and Braille Library to experience these animals and even saddle up.

"I feel like a professional," Eli said as he balanced between two saddles resting on hay bales in the stable.

And as any professional rider will tell you, it's not about what you can see; it's all in the feel.

Performers and trainers introduce them to some of the equine stars. There's Zip, Ripple, and Tango, to name a few.

For John, who was born with cerebral palsy and is vision impaired, walking in their shoes? "Feels cool!"

Making their way through the stables it's hard to tell who's more curious.

But the hands-on experience is one that both horse and human enjoy. Kids who tend to shy away from people, can't get enough of the animals they encountered.

"They were so quiet and I got to pet them and I got to groom them," said John, whose mother did not want to use his last name.

Once inside the practice arena the group is about to enjoy a whole other sensory experience. They've handled the tack, the reins, the harnesses. Eli even got a chance to sit on one of the horses: "How do you steer him?"

The group gathers in the center of the arena. Several horses surround them. They begin with a trot that soon accelerates into a full gallop. The ground shakes, and reaching out his arm toward the horses and their riders, Eli can feel it in his fingertips: "I touched him!"

It's said in the absence of one sense the others are heightened. It's fair to say after today's touch tour - they are off the charts.

Odysseo is playing at Marymoor Park in Redmond through March 30.