Saturday, May 9, 2015

Volunteering at a Therapeutic Riding Center

I have been looking forward to sharing about this for quite some time, but wanted to wait until I had some photos . . . and finally I do! (Courtesy of cell phones. :)

Back in January, I had shared that Leah and I had some exciting opportunities ahead of us this year for ministry and service. One of those for me is going to the nursing home (which has been going so well!), and the other is volunteering at a therapeutic riding center that works with children and adults with special needs. Leah and I have been volunteering there once a week (and occasionally more) and love it! It is definitely a highlight of our week!

Looking up toward the arena

For the first two sessions, we worked with older veterans which was really an honor. Mostly we were there to help if needed with saddling and bridling the horse, and then we walked alongside during the classes in case they needed help (such as helping them get their feet back in the stirrups after certain exercises) or if there was a problem. And we had so many fun and good times visiting with them as well!

This week was the last class for them, and for it, they went on a trail ride through the woods which was a lot of fun for them. Now that their classes are over, I'll really miss the two veterans I had the opportunity to work with.

The horse that one of the veterans I worked with rode

The end of their last class was bittersweet as goodbyes were said . . . though they might come out to ride occasionally just for fun so hopefully we'll be able to see them again sometime!

The veteran Leah worked with surprised her with this at the last class . . .


It was so thoughtful of him and will be quite the keepsake for Leah!

Some of the horses waiting their turns

Leah with her favorite horse there

The next session after the veterans is one with little children which Leah and I both love so much! The little ones we work with need quite a bit of assistance so we sidewalk next to the horse and hold the children on as they ride (a hand on their upper leg and one on their ankle.)

Then we also help with the therapy part of it - as the therapist/instructor gives instruction to the children to raise their arms in the air, twist in the saddle, point their toes to the ground, etc., we help the children to do those things as needed. We also have fun encouraging them, engaging them in conversation or talking to them, and more.

One boy, Will, that I have worked with for quite a few weeks has completely captured my heart. He is one of the happiest little boys I have known, and he has the brightest, sweetest smile. I love working with him!

Our 'team' (photo courtesy of Will's Mom)
Me, Will, the other sidewalker, and the leader

This week, he graduated to a new pony and a 'real' saddle which he loved riding thanks to the bouncier and faster gait! His smiles were nearly constant, and he was teasing me a bit sometimes, too. :) With the center's privacy policy, I am limited in what I can share here, but I will say that new progress was made this week to the point that it brought happy tears to the therapist's eyes and filled my heart with joy for this little guy.

He also worked on reining this week (with some help :), and it was so fun to help and watch him. He did a great job and had such a grin on his face while doing it!

It was a really special day, and one I don't think I'll ever forget!

Will and I after the session with his ribbon that he got (all of the children got one for a specific accomplishment that they reached during the last eight weeks) . . . so proud of him and the progress he is making!

Needless to say, Leah and I are so looking forward to continuing to volunteer there each week!

8 comments:

  1. AnonymousMay 09, 2015

    I loved this post, Sarah, and am just so thankful that you and Leah have this fantastic opportunity to help others, and also to have such a great time doing it!!

    Love you,
    Mom

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  2. What a wonderful thing to be involved in Sarah. Here we have 'Riding for the Disabled' a Charity that does much the same thing,using volunteers. It gives confidence to children who otherwise would never have these opportunities.

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  3. Thanks so much for your comment, Mom! And I'm glad that you enjoyed the post. :) I, too, am so thankful for this opportunity!

    Love you, too!!

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  4. We are so thankful for the opportunity, Elizabeth!

    That is wonderful that you have a similar charity program there. I am sure it is a great blessing to those who participate!

    It is amazing to see what a benefit it can be . . . some of the children that go to the riding center we volunteer at had been told they would never walk or talk, yet after a time of therapy there, they took their first steps and spoke their first words there!

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  5. That's so cool! I love horses!!! They're amazing animals with amazing abilities that helps people open up.
    My mom worked at a Therapeutic Riding Camp when she young. She came away with the best stories to tell! Silly, funny things would happen on the trails -- or dangerous scary adventures.
    They made great stories for us, her children, later in life.

    What a cool opportunity! I don't blame you for being so excited. :)

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  6. What a sweet post! You and Leah have such servant's hearts. And the little guy who stole your heart is so adorable! ♥

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  7. Horses are amazing animals, Christina! It's been fun to work some with them. Especially for Leah as they are her favorite animal.

    That is wonderful that your Mom had the opportunity to work at a therapeutic riding camp before. I am sure she did have lots of great stories to share!

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  8. Thank you so much for your kind comment, Joy!

    He is adorable, isn't ? :) And so sweet, too!

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Thanks so much for your comment! Each one is read and enjoyed. :)