The youngsters were first, second and third graders en route from Caledonia Elementary School, located in East Cleveland, to Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center. They were traveling from the big city to the rural countryside in Geauga County. They were very animated during the trip and, as they got closer to the farm, they could hardly remain seated as their excitement grew.
Catherine Brown, the kids’ teacher, has brought special education classes to the riding center in previous years. She smiles as she recalls outings and the great experiences for the groups.
"One of the reasons I continue with this program, besides having the love of horses myself, is to give the kids the chance to ride. The experience helps them with socialization, and becoming more sensitive to one another."
Fieldstone Farm, established in 1978, has distinguished itself as one of 800 facilities throughout the United States that provides horse programs specifically designed to meet physical, behavioral, social and educational aspirations of both children and adults. Fieldstone ranks among 20 percent of the facilities which have earned national accreditation through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International.
According to Fieldstone Farm program director Teresa Morris:
For children and adults with disabilities the equestrian experience is life-changing. No other therapeutic recreational opportunity benefits so many aspects of a disability in such a holistic way.
The beauty of being around horses is that horses give you what you need - to be strong, better coordinated, feel connected to nature and develop responsibility. A specific benefit is improving walking for those with physical disabilities. Riding strengthens core muscles and balance. Shifting weight and holding reins while riding enhances fine and gross motor skills used for writing.
Therapeutic riding has been generally accepted by many in the medical professions. Benefits accrue to the very young on up to older adults. The riding programs even help teens in drug treatment programs, veterans, injured service personnel accident victims and students.
The kids riding on this day didn’t care about the statistics. They knew they loved being with and around the horses. Said third grader Nameer Sbemrs with a great big smile, "It's really fun!"
Another cute youngster, Bryanna Mongo, was busy petting her horse. She said, “He is so nice and behaves when he has to stop.”
Student-teacher Cassandra Cash-Garrett was intently watching kids and horses. She said that she has seen positive effects at last year’s trip to the farm. "They love riding," she said. "They establish great bonds with the horses and remember their names. And when the volunteers ask them questions it enhances their learning experience."
One of the more positive results has been that several non-verbal autistic children have said their first words as they were astride horses. "One of the first things they're (instructed) to do when they get on a horse is to say hello to the horse," said Morris.
Find out more information about therapeutic riding. Visit Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center.
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