The Therapeutic Riding Equestrian Center (TREC) in Fairview gives individuals with specials needs the benefit of two extra legs. By putting students in the saddle, TREC seeks to improve their strength and mental well-being.
For students at TREC, horseback riding is a form of exercise, enjoyment and therapy.
According to the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International, cognitive, emotional or physical special needs to not hinder a person’s relationship with a horse. In fact, horseback riding has been proven to improve flexibility, balance and muscle-strength and can lead to increased confidence, patience and self-esteem.
“I’ve seen children with autism who have never said a word who, after being on a horse, said things like the horse’s name or ‘Mom,’” said Linda Sutto, the volunteer coordinator at TREC.
“We have videos of kids who started off five years ago and weren’t able to sit in the saddle and now can sit up and some ride without any assistance,” added Sutto.
And those are just a couple of what Sutto described as the “little miracles that happen all the time.”
But those miracles would be for naught without patient volunteers who walk beside the horses, clean stables and stabilize students.
Sutto said each student requires at least three volunteers: one on each side and one leading the horse. Depending on the student’s physical strength, a volunteer may be needed to hold the student on the horse.
Volunteers also groom the horses and perform other tasks around the barn.
Sutto asks that volunteers commit three to four hours to TREC each week, ideally at the same time every week. TREC is especially looking for volunteers who can work during the morning.
“Volunteering at TREC is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” said Sutto. “The therapeutic value is equal if not greater [for the volunteers] to what it is for the clients.”
The spring session of classes starts in April, and TREC is currently recruiting volunteers.
To get involved, call Linda Sutto at 474-5276 extension 11.
Graphic courtesy of Wikicommons