Tuesday, December 01, 2009

SpiritHorse gives outdoor therapy to those with disabilities

By LES COCKRELL / Denton Record-Chronicle
At first glance, the tree-shaded facility might look no different from any of the small ranches or horseback riding stables that dot the Denton County landscape.
Horses graze in a fenced pasture, and riders on horseback wind their way down a nearby trail. In a small corral, an instructor offers support to a young student who seems delighted to be in the saddle.
It appears idyllic, but a closer look reveals that serious work is under way. This is SpiritHorse, which provides private equine-assisted therapeutic riding lessons. Clients include people with disabilities, at-risk youth, battered women, young people who have completed drug rehabilitation and abused children.
"We don't provide recreation, we provide health care," said Charles I. Fletcher, founder and chief executive officer of the Corinth center.
Fletcher combined a passion for horses and a love for children when he started SpiritHorse seven years ago after retiring from Rockwell International. Now 71, he estimated that he works about 100 hours a week at the center.
SpiritHorse serves about 425 clients, and 90 percent of them are children. Lessons are offered for free. The center receives no government funding, and financial support comes from donations and grants, Fletcher said.
"This is a ministry, and these kids deserve it," Fletcher said.
Staff members meet with client families to discuss therapy goals and directives from physicians before beginning a program.
Hourlong sessions include horse management duties such as leading, grooming and saddling, based on students' abilities.
"It's a learning experience," said Stephanie Wilhelm, a horse care specialist and instructor at SpiritHorse.
"Children saddle and unsaddle their horses," Fletcher said. "It builds trust, self-esteem and motor skills. No matter what their disability, they participate.
The center operates under two guiding principles, Fletcher said: "Love the children" and "Make all decisions in favor of the child, not the center."
Parents take part in the sessions, he said, a feature that separates SpiritHorse from some riding centers.
"We require parents to participate," Fletcher said. "They are the experts on the child."
Having parents get involved also helps transfer the learning process to the home, he said.
The center has a staff of seven full-time and 10 part-time instructors and relies on assistance from more than 500 parent-volunteers and about 50 community volunteers.
A seven-member board of directors sets policy and raises funds, Fletcher said. Five members of a medical advisory board work closely with the center's staff.
SpiritHorse serves clients in Denton, Collin, Cooke, Dallas, Grayson, Kaufman, Rockwall, Tarrant, Wichita and Wise counties and typically receives about five new applications a week. The organization has "graduated" 365 riders in the last seven years, Fletcher said.
In addition to its operation in Corinth, SpiritHorse now has licensed centers throughout the world – from Georgia, Iowa and Virginia to Scotland, Hungary and Uruguay.
For more information, visit www.spirithorsetherapy .com or call 940-497-2946.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Little-known club team has big aspirations

by Molly Young
Vanguard Staff Writer
Three years ago, two students created a club sport that regularly competes with about ten schools in Michigan and one in Canada. Do you know which sport this is?
Here’s another hint: the 20-person team holds regular practices to learn to control animals weighing ten times as much as them.
Give up? It’s the equestrian team.
About four times throughout the fall semester, the equestrian team travels around Michigan to compete with schools such Western, Michigan, Michigan State, Oakland and Grand Valley (who they beat last year).
There are two different categories for competitions. These categories are called stock seat and hunt seat.
If a person rides a stock seat, they do Western style horseback riding. In this style, riders are expected to show a well-controlled position while doing a walk, trot and a canter. In this seat, the rider must have excellent form and position.
“It might look like [the rider] is just sitting there, but they’re giving the horse subtle cues,” communications major Courtney Trares said.
“It’s really difficult, because if you shift your weight even an inch forward or an inch back, the horse responds to it,” nursing freshman Kara Daniels said.
“During competitions, you have to be able to adjust to different horses, while at the same time, keeping your technique,” Trares said.
On the other hand, if they ride hunt seat, they do English jumper style horseback riding. Often called the forward seat, English riders dress in the attire typically found at horse shows. Likewise, the horse is clean-cut and well presented. During competitions, Hunt seat riders are judged on not only form, but also how well they complete a pre-determined course of jumps and turns.
“The hardest part is knowing how to handle your horse when you come up to a jump, and your horse just stops,” occupational therapy senior and hunt seat rider Anna Sandelich said.
“Sometimes they’re stubborn and refuse to do what you tell them to. It’s hard figuring out how to persuade them to do something they just don’t want to do,” accounting senior Jessica Kovl said. Last year, Kovl’s individual score from competition qualified her for nationals.
As of now, the team agrees that as a whole, they are “middle of the pack” when it comes to competing, because some new members on the team have little or no experience.
According to Sandelich, riders have never even seen the horse they will ride for competition, and don’t even know which one it will be until they draw a horse’s name from a bucket.
“You can practice all you want, and look really great with your horse, but that doesn’t mean anything when you get to competition. You have to adjust to different horses, and get inside the mind of a thousand pound animal and learn to control it,” Sandelich said.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A horse lover’s heaven

published: October 10, 2009 09:25 pm      print this story  
A horse lover’s heaven
Kentucky is the place for equine enthusiasts
The majesty, beauty and speed of horses have captured people’s imaginations and hearts for centuries. Books, movies and songs have raised some to almost mythical status.

For horse lovers — and there are many in the Danville area — one of the best places to learn more about the magnificent creatures is the Lexington, Ky., area. Farms, museums, racetracks and parks help horse fanciers indulge in their passions — whether you’re a child wishing for a pony or an adult who’s owned horses for years.

One popular place is the 1,224-acre Kentucky Horse Park, located just outside Georgetown, Ky., near Lexington. During its main summer season, the park is home to some 115 horses representing about 50 breeds.

Anne Morris of Danville has been to the park three times.

“If you like horses, this is the place to go. Anything you want, it’s there,” she said.

The first couple of visits to the park were quick trips. But, the third time, she visited the farm in 2004 as part of a tour, and was able to spend more time there.

She especially enjoyed the International Museum of the Horse, the blacksmith’s shop and the Parade of Breeds, during which the audience learns about different breeds.

The park also is the burial place for the great Man O’ War, the most famous thoroughbred racehorse of the 20th century. Buried with him are some of his offspring, including Triple Crown winner War Admiral, who was upset by Seabiscuit in their famous match race in 1938.

Morris also enjoyed a short movie about how America was shaped by the horse. In addition, the Hall of Champions is a place where visitors can meet retired racehorses, many of whom have made a name for themselves.

The park also offers horseback riding, but Morris passed on that because she has a horse of her own stabled near Danville — a Tennessee walking horse named Blackjack.

Candace McMaster of Champaign and her husband, Steve, took a short a trip to Kentucky several years ago “just to see this amazing place,” she said.

McMaster also is a sponsor/volunteer with Crosswinds Equine Rescue in rural Sidell. Crosswinds rescues at risk-horses, brings them back to good health and condition, and places them in good quality homes.

At the Horse Park, McMaster enjoyed the museum with the history of many famous horses, such as Secretariat, and the exhibits.

They also saw at least two live performances — one of past Derby winners and the Parade of Breeds.

“It was very exciting to see actual champions like Cigar,” she said.

“For anyone who loves horses this is a wonderful experience ... and you can walk around at a leisurely pace, decide what shows you want to see, wander through the museum, visit live horses in the stables.

“If you love horses, it is so much fun and very family friendly.”

Meeting the horses was the best part of the park, she said, as well as learning about the history and different breeds of horses.


Kentucky has many other horse tours and activities.

McMaster said she visited Claiborne Farm and met the great Secretariat, adding, “I will never forget him — he was like an ancient horse god you read about in mythology.”

Another interesting site is the 92-acre Old Friends, a retirement farm for racehorses. More than 40 thoroughbreds are enjoying their golden years at the site, just outside Georgetown, Ky.

The farm has several famous names, including Black Tie Affair, the 1991 Horse of the Year, and Awar, who earned millions during his career.

Another favorite is Popcorn Deelites, who was cast as one of the six horses to play Seabiscuit in the 2003 film starring Tobey Maguire and Jeff Bridges. In the film, Popcorn can be seen breaking from the gate, as it turned out that was his on-screen specialty.

Another celebrity at the farm is Ogygian, the last son of Damascus, a horse of the year and the 16th ranking greatest thoroughbred of the 20th century.

During the free tour, visitors may feed carrots to the horses and pet them, while learning more about their illustrious careers.


— http://www.kyhorsepark.com is the site for the Kentucky Horse Park. According to mapquest.com, the park is about a five-hour drive from Danville.

—http://www.oldfriendsequine.org is the site for Old Friends near Georgetown, Ky., a retirement farm for racehorses.

— In Vermilion County, you can learn more about Crosswinds Equine Rescue by visiting its Web site, http://www.cwer.org or calling (217) 649-7915. The site is located at 8182 E. 200 North Road, Sidell.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Horse riding holidays in Russia

To spend your vacation in the open air on the horseback is an amazing adventure, which can be dangerous or pleasant; it depends on you. It is more comfortable than hike, because you don’t need to walk all the time, carrying your things on your back. Riding a horse is healthily, and horsed trip is a good possibility to gain some skills in riding. Moreover, the regions, where this tourist service is provided, are famous with their beautiful nature and various landscapes.
Where? The most popular regions for equine tourism are Altai, Ural and Northern Caucasus. Traveling through these mountainous regions, the tourists can see different types of the wild nature, from the subtropics to the alpine meadows; enjoy the sights of the valleys and mountains, cross the rivers. The Caucasus Mountains are relatively young and high ones, their tops are covered with snow, the mountains systems of Altai and Urals are very old, have bizarre forms and make an impression another type.
Who can participate? The organizers usually write on their websites, that they provide tours different level, and the some routes are suitable for every healthy person. Anyway, you must decide if you are healthy enough. The people, who has not any riding skills, are usually instructed on the first day of the tour, how to ride. The horses walk all the time, so it is not very difficult. All the animals are usually calm and quiet enough to avoid excesses.

How long? The trips take from 6 days to 2 weeks, depending on the route and level of the participants. Everything depends on your skills and time you dispose. Some people would be fed up with the wild nature in 5 days others would need minimum two weeks, instead of all the delights of the camp life.
Meals and accommodation As for the delights of the camp life, the cost of the tour includes three meals daily. The products are transported with the group, and the meals are cooked by the participants and their guide on the camp fire. It bonds the people, isn’t it? Accommodation during the tour is camping, except the first and the last night, when the group spends the night at the tourist centre. The baths or Russian sauna is provided in the tourist centre as well. It doesn’t mean that there is no possibility to have a wash during the trip. The rivers and lakes on the route substitute the shower in the summer time.
Equipment The equipment for the equine tourism includes your private things, personal hygiene products and special clothes. You should have in view, that the weather changes, and also you should take two sets of the warm things if it rains and riding boots. Tents, all-weather raincoats, sleeping bags and things like that can be hired in the tourist centre.
Yulia Buzykina

Monday, September 14, 2009

Horse lovers by hundreds turn out in Thousand Oaks to help groups

By Mike Harris
 Hundreds of people celebrated the equestrian lifestyle Saturday at the fifth annual Day of the Horse gala in Thousand Oaks to benefit two local nonprofit organizations.
The free event at Conejo Creek Equestrian Park featured riding demonstrations, equestrian-related vendors, a children’s scavenger hunt, a silent auction, pizza and refreshments for sale, and more.
Hosted by ETI Corral 37, the celebration benefited Ride On Therapeutic Horsemanship, which teaches horseback riding to people with physical and mental disabilities, and California Coastal Horse Rescue, which provides food, shelter, rehabilitation, medical care and adoption services for horses that have been abused, abandoned or neglected.
Proceeds from the auction and the food sales went toward buying hay for the two organizations.
“Today has been incredible,” said event chairwoman Barbara Kloster. “We’ve had more people than we’ve ever had before. The pizza is selling. The silent auction is going great. So many people have donated different things. And these equestrians have put on the most phenomenal show for free.”
Pointing to the packed grandstand where spectators watched the riding demonstrations, Kloster said, “These people haven’t moved. They’re just so rapt with what they’re seeing.”
About 1 p.m., there were a few hundred people in attendance, but Kloster said the overall attendance at that point was closer to a thousand, noting that people had been coming and going throughout the day.
Watching eight women equestrians in traditional Mexican dresses and sombreros ride in formation for the crowd as traditional Mexican music played over loudspeakers, Eric Meyer of Thousand Oaks said he has attended all five Day of the Horse celebrations.
Attending the event with his daughter Annalise, 12, Meyer said he appreciated seeing “all the different riding styles. This is the first I’ve see the Mexican styles.”
Joy Woodruff of Westlake Village attended with her two young daughters, Kendra and Amanda.
“We’re all big horse lovers, especially my little one, Amanda, who is here to watch everybody and hopefully someday be just like them,” Woodruff said. “We all ride a little, but we’re not lucky enough to have a horse.”
Lynne Mann, a member of ETI Corral 37, walked with her two miniature horses.
“They’re here to demonstrate that miniature horses are horses, too,” Mann said. “They’re called American miniature horses and they’re actually horses, not ponies.”

Friday, August 21, 2009

Special needs day gives youth chance to bond

Halley Manley said her reserved daughter with Asperger’s syndrome, attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactive disorder became outgoing and made physical and emotional improvements, all thanks to horseback riding.
“She has self-confidence now and is willing to try anything,” Manley said of her daughter, 9-year-old Emma Purcell.
Manley and Purcell took part in Wednesday’s Roosevelt County Fair Special Needs Day, which included rope tricks by County Commissioner Bill Cathey, a Special Olympics horseback riding exhibition and a pet show for people with disabilities. This year is the second the fair has held a Special Needs Day and an indoor exhibits competition among disabled people.
“More people with disabilities should come out so they can intermingle with people in the community,” said Pat Dodson, who      leads the organization of the events.
Dodson said the riding exhibition aimed to show how disabled people can ride and compete in Special Olympics.
“It gives them something to do, and it gives them a sense of accomplishment because they’re able to compete,” she said.
Dodson’s 18-year-old son, Garrett, has a rare genetic disease that affects his motor skills, and he has gained strength and balance from his years of horseback riding, including participation in Special Olympics
“It’s fun,” Garrett said.
Cindy Vaugan, 48, has been part of Special Olympics since she was 8 and competes in a variety of equestrian events. She said she loves every part of it and has learned that horses are bigger and stronger than she is.
Emma, who competes in Special Olympics and takes lessons locally at Abrazos Adventures, also enjoys horseback riding.
“Everyone should learn how to do it,” she said.
Abrazos Adventures owner Wendy Toombs said she’s found little difference between normal and disabled children.
Toombs believes many problems in children come from unmanaged energy and technology allowing them to bypass learning to use their bodies. Once they learn to control their energy, she said, it helps with their disabilities.
“They learn how to focus; they learn how to apply themselves to something,” Toombs said.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Horses that Heal soldiers

June 23, 2009 10:00 pm, EDT
Every Sunday, Tuesday and Friday, of every week, a C-17 lands at Andrews Air Force Base bringing wounded soldiers back to US soil.

Some will go directly to Walter Reed Medical Center and others will go to the Veteran's Administration for care. Eventually, some of the injured will be assigned to Ft. George G. Meade's Warrior Transition Unit, an outfit of approximately 145 soldiers, half of whom have been injured in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Most of the soldiers at Ft. Meade have the signature injury of the current wars, traumatic brain injury. Others have serious physical injuries and almost all suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

At a riding arena in Crownsville, Maryland, in a program called Horses for Heroes, about 50 of those injured soldiers from Ft. Meade will saddle up. It’s like a reverse form of “horse whispering”. The horse’s movements “speak” to and soothe the rider.

Maryland Therapeutic Riding (MTR) is providing horseback riding as a means of therapy for our injured heroes; one horse, one soldier, one leader. MTR is dedicated to doing their part with the growing need for therapeutic programs for the returning injured, and they do it for free.

Founded in 1996, MTR, not far from Annapolis, has a new 15,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art riding arena that allows daily riding sessions, rain or shine. The center is open from 7am to 7pm, seven days a week.

Ft. Meade began sending wounded soldiers to MTR earlier this year following a visit from Col. Kenneth O. McCreedy (Ret.) in 2008. He recognized immediately the impact it could have for war veterans.

"People who were basically non-functioning…as soon as you put them on a horse, their posture improved, they could respond to directions, they could talk...They were different people", said Ret. Col. McCreedy, who now holds a seat on the organization’s board of directors.

The riding center is an impressive operation with horses getting groomed three times a day and going through training sessions three times a week to maintain flexibility and strength.

Not all riders at MTR are rehabbing soldiers. The facility began by providing therapy-riding for adults and children with special needs such as autism and cerebral palsy.

Like all non-profits, it struggles with funding. On average, not counting labor, it costs about $10,000 a year for the care, feeding and training of every horse in the program.

For additional information on Horses for Heroes, please check their website: www.HorsesThatHeal.org or call David Parry at 410-923-1187.

Examiner’s note: MTR itself has a special need: at least two more horses, preferably large breed such as a quarter horse-draft cross, because some of the military personnel entering the program are big men.

Author: Susy Raybon
Susy Raybon is an Examiner from Columbia.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Disabled Find Freedom on Horseback

By Susan Logue
Clifton, Virginia
16 June 2009

Laura Gregg, 13, can't talk or see. She spends most of her life in a wheelchair, but once a week she leaves the chair to sit atop a horse. With one volunteer leading the horse and one on either side to make sure she doesn't fall, she slowly moves around the riding ring.
"It is Laura's opportunity, one day a week, to feel what it is to walk again," says her mother. Karen Gregg has been bringing her daughter here since she was six years old and says she notices a change in Laura after a session. "Her muscles are usually either extremely tight or extremely loose. A child with cerebral palsy, as Laura is, can't control this." Greg says that riding the horse helps relax Laura's muscles that are tight and strengthens muscles that need to be strengthened.

Laura is one of 85 students with special needs who participate once a week in the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program, which has been offering these classes since 1980.

Riders with different challenges say they benefit

"We have some people who have physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy," says Executive Director Breeana Bornhorst. "We have some people who have cognitive or intellectual disabilities, for example, autism, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, Down Syndrome, any number of different challenges."

Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program is one of more than 700 such programs in the U.S. It has been offering these classes since 1980.

Samuel Selnick, 16, has Down Syndrome. "Like most people with Down Syndrome, he tends to have low muscle tone, says his mother, Barbara. "Riding benefits him, because you work on your core muscles." Selnick says Samuel's posture has definitely improved over the four years she has been bringing him here.

There are more than 700 therapeutic riding programs in the United States alone. Bornhorst says there is a need for more research to quantify the benefits of therapeutic riding that she sees every day. Parents and students are already convinced that these sessions make a difference.

Jennifer Hendrick says horses make the best physical therapists
Jennifer Hendrick, 19, suffered four massive strokes that left her paralyzed on one side. Before taking sessions here, she went through more traditional physical therapy. "I was stable enough to get around on my own, but this has doubled the strengthening, doubled the work and doubled the fun."

And it's that sense of fun - not just the physical improvement - that keeps Hendrick and the others returning to the riding ring week after week to work with their four legged therapists.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Helmets mandatory for young horse riders

Reported by: Katie Brace
Email: kbrace@wptv.com
Contributor: WPTV staff
Last Update: 5:41 pm

LOXAHATCHEE, FL – For the Hornstein family watching a group of horseback riders with helmets brings some comfort. A new law, named in their daughter’s memory, will soon require helmets for kids riding horses.

Their daughter, Nicole, did not have one on when she was thrown from a horse and killed.

Gary Hornstein, Nicole’s father, says,”There's no margin for error. Nicole did not have a second chance. It happened once and it was horrific."

Motivated by their pain, the Hornsteins made it their mission to mandate helmets for kids.

"It had to be done no questions asked,” says Gary Hornstein.

When Nicole died three years ago, she was riding a friend’s horse down the road. The horse stumbled and Nicole hit the pavement. She was just twelve year old.

For the past two years, her family has been relentless in their pursuit of preventing a similar tragedy.

Gary Hornstein says, "She went through things no man woman or child should go for and all for a helmet."

Monday their efforts were realized. Governor Charlie Crist came to Loxahatchee to sign a new law in Nicole’s name.

Governor Charlie Crist says, "I give all the credit to the family."

“Nicole’s Law” requires children under the age of sixteen to wear a helmet while horseback riding on a public road. The law goes into effect October first. If a child is not wearing a helmet, the person responsible faces a 500 dollar fine.

Monique Hornstein, Nicole’s mother, says, "We're just grateful, grateful. We love her every day."

Friday, May 29, 2009

Equestrian Careers: How to Find the Right Path for You

There are just people who have fallen in love with horses. They may be both young and old, man or woman. It is not a new scenario to see a kid who asks for a pony as a birthday gift. For them, it feels like heaven just to spend some time with their beloved animals. There are even instances when they can't spend a day without having to visit their pet's stable. No wonder, many individuals have turned out to be equestrians.

If you live your day breathing horses, sleeping with them, eating with them, going for adventures with them, then perhaps you happen to realize that you can start off a career with it. Equestrian careers are common not only in the United States but in many other countries as well. You can always land yourself in a useful career in the horse industry and get on with a better way of spending your daily routines.

In the past years, surveys have showed that there are nearly seven million horses in the United States alone and the more it gives rewarding opportunities for the horse lovers. The American Horse Council further points out that it supports an estimated 1.4 million full time jobs for the equestrians. The horse industry features a wide spectrum of equestrian careers ranging from the hands-on tasks of large animal veterinarian up to those that include becoming a supplement and feeds distributor. Other equestrian careers are research, breeding, showing, education, health, recreation, product manufacturing, and a lot other service industries. Sure enough, you would find something that would be perfectly appropriate for you.

So, how can you possibly gauge the rightful opportunity that is most apt for you as an equestrian? Before you practically send out your resumes to the horse industry related offices, you first need to seek out the opportunity or career that would suit you best. You need time to attend to this. As much as you want to be employed as a veterinarian or technician, no one in his right state of mind would surely hire you if you can't show the documents that would serve as your credentials. Hence, take time to research on the various equestrian careers, then find out the requirements for those and then work on how you would be able to earn the credentials. Trainings and certificates are most likely needed.

Here are some of the questions that you would have to ask yourself.

What do you really want for a career involving horses? What are you most fond of doing? Are you much in contact with these animals? Or would you rather go for a job that includes working in some supporting field? Here are the pros and cons for them.

The supporting field role can make you earn more because the job is more stable, requires you to report in the regular hours, and of course, you have the benefits to be enjoyed. Meanwhile, a hands-on equestrian career can provide you with more flexible and greater chances of getting in full contact with your favored animals.

What degree of education can you boast of? You would need trainings and the right education in order to get admitted into the horse industry careers. If you prefer to be a barn manager, a horse trainer, a riding instructor, or perhaps a public relations expert, a vet, or a writer, then seek out the required trainings or degrees for them.

It is important that you know your goals especially when you are eyeing for an equestrian career. If you keep in focus, then you'll be successful in the end.

Article Written By J. Foley

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Whitworth prof studies horseback riding as therapy


The Spokesman-Review
SPOKANE, Wash. —

With his arms outstretched, 6-year-old Tyson Thompson concentrated Sunday on keeping his posture straight and his leg muscles strong as he balanced on the horse moving beneath him.

The boy looked miniature perched on the back of the 1,400-pound horse named April. Maintaining steadiness proved even more difficult without a saddle, especially for Thompson, who has cerebral palsy.

"It makes him very aware of his body positions," said Ellie Giffin, Thompson's mother. Riding 18-year-old April, a breed of draft horse known as Shire and related to Clydesdales, is also the only physical therapy Thompson does in which his symptoms don't regress, Giffin said.

Known as hippotherapy stemming from the Greek word "hippos" for horse the treatment uses the multidimensional movements of a horse to treat patients who suffer from muscle or movement dysfunction. It's said to improve balance, posture, mobility and function.

"They can't re-create this in a clinic," Giffin said.

Giffin and her family also are fortunate to be related to Mike and Teri Sardinia. The Sardinias own the Clayton farm and the horse used in Thompson's therapy. The boy has been working with the horses since he was 3 years old.

Mike Sardinia is a biology professor at Whitworth University. Two years ago, two of his former students did their research project for his animal physiology course on the effects of hippotherapy; Thompson served as their test subject. This year, undergraduate biology majors David Ellis and Aly Shaffer, both 22, took the research a step further to determine how long Thompson's muscles benefited from each session.

The students measured the electromyograms in the boy's muscles before, and then each day after each therapy session for a week. The electromyogram is a graphic representation of the electrical activity that occurs when muscles contract.

For most people, those muscles are in sync when they are contracting in the limbs. But for people with cerebral palsy, the electromyograms are out of sync for the same muscles, causing patients to be off-balance.

"The idea of being on a horse is that it moves in a very synchronized way; he has to use his muscles in sync with the horse," Ellis said.

Ellis and Shaffer recently presented their research at the Spokane Intercollegiate Research Conference. Their research determined that Thompson had better muscle coordination and balance for at least two days following his sessions with horses.

Mike Sardinia said he hopes the research will be helpful in establishing more local hippotherapy options. When Giffin went looking for help, there were only two similar programs in the Spokane area, and each had a long waiting list.

In addition, Sardinia said there is much anecdotal evidence to support the benefits of hippotherapy but very little solid research to prove it works.

"We want to spread this around to anybody that is doing this kind of work," he said.

Already the need is growing.

On Saturday, a newly formed group in Spokane called Free Rein held an event to raise money for similar therapy.

Founded last summer, Free Rein allows 22 children and adults with physical, mental and emotional disabilities to ride and connect with horses. The nonprofit wants the program to grow and eventually serve 100 riders a year.

But the therapy is costly, and often patients are living on limited incomes and have higher living expenses because of a disability.

The Sardinias said they have only worked with Thompson so far but in the future would consider taking on more riders.

Giffin said that without the therapy, her son's progress would have been slower. He no longer wears leg braces.

"The biggest thing is that he has developed strength in his torso," Giffin said. "He couldn't sit before without help."


Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesmanreview.com

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Guelph man horseback riding across Canada for charity

April 04, 2009
GuelphMercury.com/News Services
Web edition

Kimball Foord of Guelph is horseback riding across Canada to raise awareness and money for children.

Foord, a 50-year-old father of five, expects to leave Guelph on Saturday, April 11 on his Ride for Dreams and complete his journey on Sept. 9 in Vancouver in support of the Sunshine Foundation of Canada, a charity which supports children with severe physical disabilities and life-threatening illnesses.

It will be the second such attempt by Foord, who in 2006 covered 1,700 kilometres from Guelph to the Ontario-Manitoba border. Foord will take only what he and his two horses can carry. He will camp out and rely on the kindness of strangers to provide water and hay during his journey.

A Dance for Dreams fund-raiser will be held in support of Sunshine and also help serve as a kickoff to Foord's cross-country ride. The Dance for Dreams is scheduled for Saturday, April 11 from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Fergus Community Centre. Tickets are $10 per person or two for $15. They will be available at the door or by calling 519-265-8111.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Unbridled passion for changing lives

Bill Hendricks, Sarah Donaghy and (foreground) Kathy Day help Lucas Beauchamp climb onto Joey for his riding lesson at PRDA.
John Gordon/Langley Times

By Brenda Anderson - Langley Times

Published: April 03, 2009 3:00 PM
Updated: April 03, 2009 3:31 PM

On a sunny, early spring afternoon, the air in Campbell Valley Park is crisp and fresh. The ground, still muddy in spots, has been churned up by the hooves of a dozen horses passing behind the barn and indoor riding ring of Pacific Riding for Developing Abilities.

Riders, taking advantage of a brief spell of fine weather, have been spending at least part of their lessons outdoors whenever possible.

The barn doors, looking east over the back of the PRDA’s 15-acre property on 208 Street, stand wide open to the bright day, releasing the comforting scents of fresh hay and warm horseflesh.

Wooden stalls line each side of the long enclosure, currently home to 19 therapy horses (though there is space for 23) along with a small tack room.

As he strolls through the barn and past the riding rings where lessons are given, Bill Hendricks, one of two PRDA volunteer co-ordinators, reels off stats about the charitable agency, which has spent the last 10 of its 36 years on this site.

PRDA runs on a $500,000 annual budget, which is funded through United Way grants (which they will lose within the next two years) B.C. Gaming, and community donations, Hendricks explains.

The first riders were GF Strong patients rehabilitating injuries. Today, they include people of all ages with a variety of mental and physical disabilities, and range from young children coming in for pony rides to elite Paralympic athletes.

It costs PRDA $1,700 each to provide its 125 riders with a 10-week session. Users pay $250 for 10, 30-minute lessons, and the difference is subsidized.

The riders, who range in age from young children to senior citizens, are supported by paid instructors and PRDA’s 160-strong team of volunteers, who also range widely in age. Sixteen is the minimum age to volunteer, but their is no limit at the other end of the spectrum, with people in their 80s taking regular shifts.

Some are already horse savvy, while others start out knowing only that food goes in one end of a horse and comes out the other, jokes Hendricks.

But he’s the first to admit, facts and figures don’t tell the real story of PRDA.

This is a place where lives are changed.

That truth is revealed daily in broad smiles and peels of laughter, even in the disappointed tears of a dressage rider who knows she’s capable of achieving more than she has on a given day.

It’s actually not all that unusual for young riders to cry when they first arrive at PRDA. Perhaps they’re fearful of the horses, or maybe it’s painful to stretch and use the different muscles required to sit and balance astride the large animals.

“Often, by the end of the session, they’re crying because they have to get off the horse,” Hendricks says.

A hydraulic lift and the availability of specially designed reins and saddles or sheepskin pads, which transfer the animal’s body heat and act like a heating pad, mean riders at every level of ability can benefit from equine therapy.

“There isn’t really a rider we can’t accommodate,” says Hendricks. “We just need their doctor’s permission.”

Somehow, even the horses seem to sense they are dealing with special riders and that they need to be gentler with some than with others.

PRDA receives a couple of calls each week from people interested in donating a horse, but only about 10 per cent of the animals are suited to the task.

People sometimes get offended if their offer isn’t accepted, Hendricks says, but it takes a pretty special horse to meet the riders’ unique needs.

“We try to find ones that don’t have the flight instinct. Most do; it’s just a matter of how far you can push it.”

When she goes out and look at a horse, PRDA’s head riding instructor Michelle Meacher takes along a bag of soft toys which she tosses at the animal to gauge its reaction.

“If the horse is up the wall, obviously it’s not going to work,” says Hendricks.

The ones that do make

it don’t fit any particular profile, he says. And the line of animals inside the barn, ranging from ponies to draft horses bears him out.

Like people, they all come with their own distinct personalities.

There’s Gimli, for example, a Norwegian fiord, which Hendricks describes as being like a typical five-year-old.

“No, I don’t want to do this and you can’t make me,” he mimics the horse, with a laugh.

Gregory, formerly a top dressage horse valued at $100,000, was donated to PRDA after suffering an injury.

“We’ve had horses from the movie industry,” says Judy Cocchia, who job shares with Hendricks.

One was used in westerns and was trained to play dead. If you touched its shoulder, it would drop to the ground and lie perfectly still.

“That one took a while to retrain,” she laughs.

Then there was the parade horse that could trot up and down busy Fraser Highway without batting an eye, but it couldn’t go into the park because it was terrified of squirrels and blowing leaves.

While the horses can come from anywhere, they have to not only have a great personality, but must also possess a certain instinct that is harder to pin down.

One horse seemed to sense its teenage rider was having a small seizure and stopped in its tracks.

“They are truly amazing animals,” says Cocchia.

Each rider is matched with a horse based on the size of the animal and how much trunk control the rider has. Inside the ring, they are accompanied by one to three volunteers per rider, depending on the level of disability.

Some only require a watchful eye, while others must be held upright on the horse at all times.

Riders, instructors and volunteers work together as a team to teach real riding skills, using proper terminology, explains Meacher.

Instructors might run their students through a series of games, such as ring toss, designed to improve strength, stability, balance and co-ordination as well as fine and gross motor skills.

The psychological and social benefits are tougher to measure, but they’re easy to see as the riders gain confidence and self-esteem with every session.

“The psychological and social benefits are huge,” says Meacher.

“It’s something unique they can tell their friends.”

They may not be able to run and play soccer and baseball or ride bicycles with their classmates, but horseback riding sets them apart.

“It’s their sport; it’s what they do,” Meacher says.

Often, it’s as therapeutic for the volunteers as it is for the riders.

We’re always looking for volunteers. The whole facility wouldn’t function without volunteers,” says Hendricks.

Among the names on the timetable posted just inside the main doors of PRDA are Sandra Funk and Lois Beall.

“It’s a happy place,” Beal says. “The horses are happy and the kids are happy.”

“No matter how I feel when I come in, I always leave feeling great.

“My friends don’t realize, you’re not giving a lot — you’re receiving.”

Funk, a six-year volunteer who comes twice a week, agrees.

“It’s my bliss,” she says.

Under the women’s watch, children have come out of their shells. Some, so scared or shy at the outset they won’t speak a word, are babbling throughout an entire session after a few weeks.

Funk recalls one particular girl who beat the odds.

“The first year I was here little Brook learned to walk. Ten years old in a wheelchair and she learned to walk from riding.

“I can’t talk about that too long or I’ll cry,” she smiled.

PRDA’s next 10-week session begins on Monday, April 13.

Anyone who is interested in helping out, is invited to call Hendricks or Cocchia at 604-530-8717. Visit www.prda.ca for more information.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Miami equine program grooms business executives

An equine-assisted learning program helps CEOs and other executives overcome business obstacles.


Michelle Salerno has only known her student a few hours, but already has some penetrating insights into her psyche.

Salerno says Maria Carrillo of Miami, a 56-year-old sales coach for AT&T, is intimidated by ``powerful male energy.''

She asks Carrillo about her husband and father, looking for the root of the problem.

And how does she know all this? A horse told her.

Shakespeare, a 1,600-pound Arabian mix, helps Salerno teach sales professionals like Carrillo how to overcome fears about leadership or learn how to work as part of a team.

Salerno's conversation with Carrillo took place during an ''equine-assisted learning'' program at Hunting Horn Stables in Miami, where she conducts leadership training and team-building exercises using horses. Clients from big businesses like Sara Lee and AT&T pay up to $900 to find flaws in their leadership techniques.

Salerno said horses have been used before to ''train'' humans, but they're often used in work with children, gaining prominence as a therapy for autistic children. Salerno also does some similar work -- she's licensed to provide behavioral redirection training with children and families -- but the work she does with professionals is all her own.

Cathy Pareto, who runs her own financial planning and investment firm, Cathy Pareto & Associates in Miami, said the program has affected the way she works. A big take-away for her has been communication -- she's learned a lot about how much conveys to people with her body language.

Equine-assisted learning programs are based on the idea that horses can sense what a person is thinking and feeling. If the student is fearful or calm, angry or loving, a horse will react in a like manner, Salerno said.

''They are . . . mirrors,'' she said.

Horses don't care if someone is a CEO or drives a fancy car, she said. They don't listen to cajoling or threats. The intimidation tactics that might work in a business setting don't work here, she said. Working with horses forces people to think about the effectiveness of their own techniques with humans.

All that matters when a businessperson is standing in front of an 1,800-pound animal is raw leadership skill.

''However good you lead is how good that they'll follow,'' Salerno said.

Salerno wasn't always the corporate equivalent of a horse whisperer. Since 2004, she's been conducting customized emotional fitness training for corporations and individuals in her MPowerMentor programs. Before that, she was in software sales and management for 10 years.

The horse program is a relatively new venture. She started the program in August and did her first training session in October.

When Salerno started horseback riding with trainer Monica Gerritsen, she realized that many of her MPowerMentor techniques could be combined with Gerritsen's horse program.

Typically, Salerno and Gerritsen do two to four trainings a month, Salerno said. Ideally, she said, they would like to do two to three every week.

Rates range from $295 to $895 per day or per program, depending on what students want to do and the length of the program. There are half-day, full-day and multiday options.

In all the programs, Salerno assesses what the participants came in to work on, and gives each person a follow-up call a week later.

Salerno also offers a mastery program for advanced students who want to keep working on a specific exercise. Those one-hour sessions cost $150.

She and Gerritsen developed the leadership program, along with components that help with empowerment issues, team-building and redirecting children's behavior.

While other programs exist using horses for therapy or team-building, Salerno said the hands-on aspect of using the horses to teach leadership skills sets her program apart.

Participants in the team-building exercise groom the horse and take turns leading it around, making sure it doesn't eat grass -- which means it doesn't respect the leader -- and follows direction. They're instructed to lead the horse around a ring, getting it to speed up, slow down and turn.

They learn horses don't respond to touch or commands, but pay attention to body language.

''A horse isn't a puppy,'' Salerno said. ``It won't come if you stand and call it.''

While Salerno said the feedback she gets is unanimously positive, one of the participants in the team-building exercise wasn't so sure.

Carrillo, the sales coach who was taken aside when a horse shied away from her during an exercise, said she doesn't see how it affects her work.

She works from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. most days, she said, and while she was with the horses she was only worried about what her numbers would be at the end of the day.

Horses aren't relevant, she said, especially when she's being told that men intimidate her. She works mostly with men and has been married for more than 20 years.

Salerno later said she meant Carrillo is intimidated by situations out of her control, which Carrillo said she could accept.

In this economy, people need feedback and help now, Salerno said. They need personalized tools to help them overcome their obstacles, she said.

Horses provide the answers people need to help them change, she said.

Whatever people dream of becoming, she said, ``The horse makes you be it.''

Monday, March 23, 2009

Riding the Atlantic's waves

Gauchos take Kate Kellaway on a week-long trail ride along Uruguay's stunning coast, and teach her how to herd cattle on a working farm

* Kate Kellaway
* The Observer, Sunday 22 March 2009

Gauchos take Kate Kellaway on a week-long trail ride along Uruguay's stunning coast, and teach her how to herd cattle on a working farm

Our guide stood in front of a map of South America and pointed to Uruguay, squeezed next to Brazil and tiny in comparison. "Look, it is heart-shaped," she said. Patting herself on the chest, she added: "We have big hearts here." It was a line that from the wrong lips would have sounded contrived, but five days into one of the most wonderful riding experiences of my life, what Rosa said was incontrovertibly true. Uruguay, as well as being heart-shaped, is beautiful - a green and uncrowded land (with a population of only 3 million).

This is South America's undiscovered country, its best kept secret. And it is a perfect destination for horse riders. Had he not picked on Norfolk first, Noël Coward might have commented: "Very flat, Uruguay." But one thing is for sure: he would have approved of its gauchos.

Every Uruguayan trail ride comes with at least two gauchos to organise the horses (reliable, forward-going criollo crosses) and to readjust saddles (rough affairs, topped with sheepskin), stirrups and cinches. I had pictured these guys as casually scuffed cowboys. But our gauchos, Alexis and Fabian, were dandies. They dressed immaculately in stylishly baggy riding trousers - bombachas - secured by belts into which silver knives were stuck at dashing angles, and they had a repertoire of rakish hats. (I have returned with a hopeful wardrobe of boots, hats and sashes, all too improbably colourful for English riding.)

Watching the gauchos ride was one of the great joys of this trip. It was like admiring apparently effortless dancing. In particular, I noticed - and marvelled at - the tremendous stillness at the heart of their horsemanship, as if riding were not actually about movement at all.

This holiday was a present from my sister, for my 50th birthday. She knew what it would mean to me. I'd become a convert to riding holidays a year ago, in Andalucia, and have, since then, been riding in England as often as life allows.

Before settling on Uruguay, I enjoyed many luxuriously indecisive months, wondering where in the world to go, studying Ride World Wide's excellent brochure. And in the end, I chose Uruguay because it is the ultimate coastal ride - and I adore riding by the sea. Also, I wanted to go somewhere right off my map.

The coastal riding exceeded even my dreamy expectations: the thrill of those hours spent riding on wide empty Atlantic beaches in Rocha Province, and by the Laguna Negra further north (where the water is an inky blue and where I swam after a hot morning's riding) will stay in my mind forever.

By the Atlantic we sighted two whales. The first seemed to greet us in a momentary salute; the second was a melancholy spectacle - vast, dead, stranded on the beach. But for me, the greatest thrill of all was the sight of hundreds of sea lions basking on rocks. And I loved being introduced to armadillos too (said to be lucky). What extraordinary beasts they are, with their armoured vulnerability - like warriors that have forgotten how to fight.

Inland, the landscape was sometimes sinister (rather as I imagine Coleridge's Xanadu), randomly dotted with palm trees, with rivers running across it like threads of mercury. Sometimes vultures gathered above us like bad news. Yet the weather tended to be warm and forgiving, saving its dramatic storms for the nights. One afternoon was exceptionally hot, though, and I watched as one of the gauchos, Alexis, reached into his saddlebag for a bottle of water, took off his hat, poured the entire contents of the bottle over his head and then stuck his hat back on. I wondered whether I dared do the same, until the weather changed.

This was a trail ride, and we were staying in good, comfortable hotels and working farms (estancias) where the idea was to work with the gauchos and "help". This, the part of the holiday I was looking forward to least, I enjoyed most of all. One estancia, El Sauce, was run by a charming and cultivated Uruguayan (who jokingly dubbed himself Don Juan). He explained that he had "120 horses" and, with a twinkle in his eye, added: "Something for everyone."

I was lucky enough to spend the day with a fabulous grey mare, Cerrazon (Spanish for "fog" or "mist"). There was nothing vague or misty about Cerrazon's approach to covering the ground at speed. One of my most cherished memories of the trip will be of the moment when Alexis showed me how to calm Cerrazon, as you would an overexcited child. She had broken into a thrilling, unplanned gallop that seemed to guarantee our early arrival in Brazil. Alexis (who speaks no English) indicated that I must say "Sssh" to Cerrazon. And the extraordinary thing was that she responded (many of these horses are trained to react to the voice).

But it was anyone's guess how she and I would take to the job of herding cattle. It was our task to herd Herefordshire cattle from one corner of a huge, featureless field to another. What I found novel (and intensely enjoyable) was seeing horses working, knowing their jobs - rather as sheep dogs do. And, gratifyingly, whenever Cerrazon cantered anywhere near the cows, they bustled away from her.

"Gosh, I am rather good at this," I told myself with fatal smugness before realising that I was enthusiastically herding my Herefordshire victims in the opposite direction to where they were supposed to be going. The rest of our party were not doing too well either. One did her best to round up a dead cow. Another was stopped in her tracks by a cow who had chosen that particular moment to give birth. The gauchos looked on from the middle of the field and laughed.

Easy-going laughter is characteristic of this country. Uruguay is defined by its calm, its spaciousness and its amiability. Montevideo, the capital, where the holiday begins and ends, is a safe, sympathetic city - ideal if you are a woman travelling on your own. But of course, on this holiday, you are not on your own for long and the experience of riding together is bonding. I am sure most groups end up feeling friendly and connected - ours (there were 10 on our trip - the maximum permitted) certainly did. But it is essential to be fit before going on such a trip. There is a lot of fast riding and you are on horseback for between five and seven hours a day.

The second, less serious, advice would be: don't automatically disdain mate, the gauchos' drink of choice. It is definitely one for committed tea drinkers - it tastes like overbrewed Earl Grey and steams away in a small cauldron. You suck it through a silver straw. Rosa cheerfully explained that Uruguayans are a nation of addicts. I have an unopened packet of the stuff on my mantelpiece right now. I keep wondering whether it is safe to brew up a pot - if only to transport myself back to Uruguay.

Kate Kellaway flew to Montevideo with Brazilian airline TAM, then joined Ride World Wide (01837 82544; rideworldwide.com) on its eight-night Atlantic Coast Ride. The trip costs US$2,400 per person based on two sharing, which includes transfers, all riding, guides and equipment, eight nights' accommodation and some meals, but not flights. The last departure for this season is 11 April, and trips start again on 17 October.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Equestrian Singles – Where to Meet Them

A horse lover, or any animal lover, would want to find someone who likes horses like themselves. While it may seem petty for some people, an equestrian who ends up with someone who dislikes horses or does not understand their partner's passion for horses is doomed to have a lot of potential relationship problems in the future. Weird but I've heard of some people feeling jealous of the partner's love and attention towards their horse. That is why horse lovers would want to find someone who shares the same love for the animal. But where do equestrian singles meet and mingle?

A primary venue where equestrians may find other equestrians is in a horse show or competition. There are also local horse-riding groups in the community which conduct meetings with members. Through regular meetings and competitions, you get the chance to see other horse-loving people in your area.

Unfortunately, few people find love in these places. Because horse riding is a competitive sport, it is hard to develop any romantic feelings for anyone in such arena.

That is why there are websites where horse-loving single men and women can meet. Through online dating websites, many couples have met and found "true love." The site works by asking any single adult horse lover to register and upload details for his profile. Or he can be asked to make a personal ad through video. The information is added to the database which members browse through. If they are attracted to anyone of the other members of the website, he may send messages to the person, and later on, meet her.

Aside from the regular online dating services, some sites have special match-making services. Using the information that you provided, the host website runs a program which can then check which couples have more potential of becoming lovers than others. Once they've found your "match," they would then set you up on a date.

Some websites are not mere dating sites but online equestrian communities where people with the same passion and love for horses meet and exchange ideas. Upcoming events in the community are posted in the website, so people will know if there will be a show, rodeo or competition anytime soon. They also have chat rooms and forums, perfect venues for equine lovers to interact and talk more.

Here's a word of caution, though. Never give personal details of yourself like your name, work or home address, and others, unless you've developed a deeper trust with the other person. The thing is, you are the only person to judge if the other person is trustworthy or not. You need to trust your instincts and be mindful of all details that you may gather. If your gut tells you that he is lying, then it is better to stop communicating with him during such early stages. Learn to be more attentive, and at times, investigate on the background of the other person.

Like horses, relationships have needs, too. As horses need to be fed and cared for, relationships need to be nurtured and loved. Meeting equestrian singles, in any possible way, is just the first step. If you want to develop a deeper, more meaningful relationship with someone, you have to work on it. Soon enough, you will find your special someone to share love with.

Article Written By J. Foley

Friday, March 06, 2009

Where to ride horses around the world

The best five-star saddle-based adventures from Argentina to Rajasthan.

By Charles Starmer-Smith
Last Updated: 4:02PM GMT 06 Mar 2009

Although in Argentina, India and Africa it is easy to find luxurious riding holidays that combine well-schooled horses, stunning scenery and comfortable places to stay, that is not the case in the rest of the world. "Too many riding holidays involve too much damp canvas," admits one operator wryly.

While in the Middle East you can have the thrill of sleeping in the desert under the stars, horses are usually Arab racers and not schooled the English way. In America you can find luxurious ranches and wonderful riding, but rarely both together. In Canada you can ride in glorious wilderness and hunt elk from horseback, but will have to stay in cabins. So where to go if you want everything: fine steeds, exhilarating landscapes, comfortable accommodation, and, most importantly, experienced guides? Here are a few of the best destinations.

Singita Grumeti Reserves - Serengeti, Tanzania

From this spring, experienced riders staying at American billionaire Paul Tudor Jones's Sasakwa Lodge will have access to 18 magnificent steeds on which to traverse his 350,000-acre private property. Game in the reserve bordering the Serengeti is plentiful; during migration, the horses might pass through thousands of wildebeest and zebra and, in the dry season, traverse riverbeds which lion prides regard as home. On a five-day horseback safari, staying two nights at Sasakwa and two nights at the glamorous Faru Faru bush camp, guests ride up to 20km a day with a game guide, swapping a saddle at the end of the day for sundowners and spa treatments.

A five-day riding safari at Singita Grumeti (www.singita.com) costs £4,030pp, excluding air fares.

Don Augusto - Pilar, Argentina

This glamorous private farm, 45 minutes outside Buenos Aires, is surrounded by some of the most famous polo clubs in the world. The speciality here, naturally, is polo; set holidays consist of private lessons each morning and four- to six-chukka games in the afternoon, played with pro Argentinian riders. Although there is the option of staying at a small lodge sleeping up to 40 riders, the most luxurious places to stay are the two country houses, each sleeping eight and serviced by private staff, set in 37 hectares. Rides are also available in the surrounding countryside, as are carriage trips.

Riding holidays at Don Augusto (www.estanciadonaugusto.com.ar) cost from $300pp a day, all-inclusive.

Rajasthan, India

The most popular Indian horseriding holidays, says Ride World Wide, are bespoke Rajasthan trips, taking in ancient forts and hillside villages, and staying in varied accommodation from palaces to Raj-style tents in the deserts, which have proper beds and basic bathrooms with showers and WCs. A ten-night itinerary might take in Jaipur and its Amber Fort, the luxurious Pushkar Resort oasis in the desert, an isolated camp in the mountains, dinner at the Kuchaman Fort, a treatment at the Samode Palace spa, and a final evening in the simple Dera Danta Kila: a hilltop guest house beside a monkey-inhabited fort.
A ten-night holiday with Ride World Wide (01837 82544, www.rideworldwide.com) costs from £5,070pp, excluding flights.

Mount Juliet Estate - Kilkenny, Ireland

This is the place to warm up for the ultimate treat of going to Botswana or Kenya with a specialist such as Aardvark Safaris (01578 760 222, www.aardvarksafaris.co.uk) Accommodation at the 1,500-acre Irish estate is the Mount Juliet House, with its 32 elegantly decorated rooms and fine restaurant. The equestrian centre here has bred 11 classic winners; steeds range from ponies to thoroughbreds. Unusually, at this horse-centric destination, there are diversions such as a spa and a golf course for non-riders.

Two nights' b&b with three hours' daily riding costs from £612pp: In the Saddle (01299 272 997, www.inthesaddle.co.uk)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Elements of a Good Equestrian College Program

If you are someone who is passionate about horses, and you want to use your time in college to learn more about them, then you might want to check out the various Equestrian college programs available today. Many colleges offer such programs. However, picking a single program over all of the choices can be a bit confusing.

In order to help you choose the best program, here are a few things that you might want to look for:

A) Focus – you need to see if the programs offered by a specific college are appropriate to help you get a career doing what you love and working with horses. There are various skills that you can learn and a focus on these learning areas shows you what the college can do for you. Here are the areas of focus:

1) Horseback riding and training – an equestrian is often defined by his or her ability to ride horses. Riding is a skill that will forever be attached to the title "equestrian". However, riding is just the tip of the iceberg. In order to learn how to be a true equestrian, you need to learn how to work with your horse, training it and shaping it until it can respond to your slightest command. Remember that Equestrian studies is not just about you; It's about both you and your horse.

2) Horse care – you also need to learn how to take care of your horses. A lot of people assume that the hardest part of being an equestrian is getting your horse to jump. This is a fantasy. In order to become a true equestrian, you need to learn how to take care of your mount. You need to understand horses inside and out. You will study the horse's anatomy, how to fee it, how to groom it, and other essentials in horse care.

3) Horse Businesses – once you have acquired the skills, you need to learn how to use those skills to help you in the real world. In other words, you should learn the appropriate techniques to turn your skills into money. A good program will teach you to run horse-related businesses, such as stables, riding schools, and others.

B) Hands-on learning – a good program will always allow the students to learn about horses hands-on. You cannot be a "classroom equestrian". There is not such thing. You need to actually work with horses in order to become an equestrian.

The best way to judge a college equestrian program would be to see if there are any stables in the campus. This shows you just how extensive the training of the students is going to be. You should also check to see if the program includes internships. This is the best way to learn how to apply "classroom" skills in the "real" world.

C) Extracurricular activities – in order to see just how much you will learn from a college's equestrian program, you might want to check out if they have a great equestrian or polo team. This will show you just how much you will be able to learn. It will also give you a glimpse on how much the school prides itself on this field.

Those are just some of the things you need to check out in choosing a college equestrian program. Remember: you can always check how much the teacher can give before you start taking classes.

Article Written By J. Foley

Friday, January 30, 2009

Men Love Equestrian Events

Loving the competition--this is presumably the very motto of men. They do enjoy any form of competition. The competition that they take too much interest in range from the simple basketball games wherein they bet for their own favored teams to bring home the bacon and down to enlisting themselves as members of a specific sports event team and work on taking home the victory.

Now there is another addiction that men would die for and that is rodeo. When asked which variety of rodeo they engage themselves in, most of them would give a ringing answer of barrel racing. Why would they not love it when really engaging women are the ones who are participating in the sports league? This then is one of the main reasons that influences them to also pay attention to equestrian events.

Equestrian events showcase the participant's speed. Perhaps one more reason as to why men patronize equestrian events is because they get to witness women competing against men in this sport of speed. Isn't it too enticing and astounding to see pretty women who are too talented to enlist themselves in such kind of sport which had been for long a time regarded as a man's stuff? But of course, there are innumerable men who are equestrians themselves.

There are several other kinds of equestrian events that men can join and be good at. It is very very important that they know how to choose the appropriate horses to ride on. Safety and comfort are two of the key factors to consider. When one talks about competition, the very thing that comes into the mind is winning. What is the sense of a competition if no one can be declared as the winner, right?

This just makes all sorts of competition pretty exciting. And in order to win, the horse's condition plays a major role. Just take reigning as an example. Reigning is an equestrian event that features the rider completing a pattern set while on board his horse. The pattern includes difficult obstacles wherein various maneuvering must be finished off with ease and confidence.

Other important equestrian events which are most sought after and which deserve to be noted are The National Horse Shows, the Olympia London International Horse Show, and the Arabian Horse Show.

The National Horse Show caters to all equestrians in the United States who have all the intentions of showing off what they've got. It is organized by the National Horse Show Association of America and is held at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club that is located in Wellington, Florida. Thousands of spectators come around to witness the competition. The event is focused on the display of horsemanship. As an equestrian sport, the main goal is for the competitors to show off their excellence in the said field.

The Olympia London International Horse Show on the other hand is held in London, England annually in the month of December. Elite people who own the elite horses join this prestigious equestrian event. The common categories in the competition are the dressage or the show jumping.

The Arabian Horse Show that is sponsored by the Arabian Horse Association of Arizona is a tough competition for the equestrian and a lot of money is involved as the price.

Equestrian events are really that interesting. No wonder, men are passionate enough to indulge in all of these.

Article Written By J. Foley

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lucinda Green's Equestrian Challenge

Lucinda Green is a record holder in the Badminton Horse Trials. She won the trials for an astounding six times! What's more, she rode six different horses during those trials! Isn't that just amazing? Now, you can share her experience in the thrills of being an equestrian through Lucinda Green's Equestrian Challenge.

The game challenges players on three fronts: cross country, show jumping and dressage. The ultimate goal of the game is for you to win all four-star events in Adelaide, Badminton, Burghley, and Kentucky. Before you get ahead of yourself, however, you need to cover the basics.

The game starts with you as a young two-star equestrian taken under the wings of Lucinda Green. Full customization of the character allows you to create a rider that truly matches who you are or, at least, who you perceive yourself to be.

You also get to take care of your own horse. This is a very important aspect of the game, as your success depends on the amount of work you put into training and caring for the horse. It must be fed, watered, brushed, among other things. You also need to make sure that its attributes are distributed properly so that you will be able to grab the prize every competition.

There are four "stats" or attributes that you need to balance. They are: Speed, Stamina, Jumping, Agility, and Trust. Each person will be able to develop a horse differently by simply adjusting the allotment of stats.

Lucinda Green teaches you and trains you until you can compete in the four-star competitions. At this level, you will pit your character in various contests against the biggest names in riding today.

Graphically, the game is stunning. That is, if you compare it to other equestrian games today. The customizability of the character is also a nice touch. However, the gameplay is nothing revolutionary. The game just does not push any gaming boundaries.

It is less tedious than other games, which means you can enjoy yourself more and take care of the details less. After all, gamers who buy equestrian games are more interested in the competition rather on the simulated horse-care lessons, right? The life of the game is also quite good: you are able to enjoy the different challenges and you don't end up feeling a bit disappointed because of the length.

However, the repetitive motions that one must go through in order to compete and the actions involved in taking care of the horse can be very dull at times. The menu is also quite clumsy and this means that you might have a hard time navigating around the controls.

Not many people are bound to buy equestrian games. It just doesn't seem like a genre that appeals to the common couch soldier/strategist/athlete. Equestrian challenge attempts to change this through lots and lots of eye candy. However, its sticking to realism doesn't really help in making it more popular with gamers. Even a little bit of imagination could surely have helped this game.

The bottom line is this: Equestrian Challenge is a great game. In fact, it's superior to any equestrian games available today. However, if you are not fond of the sport, you might not see enough in this game to try it out. You should get this game if you love horses, but if you are the typical point-and-shoot guy, you might want to skip it.

Article Written BY J. Foley

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Magic Moments facing ‘very serious situation’

By Todd G. Higdon
Carthage Press
Tue Jan 06, 2009, 11:51 AM CST


A riding therapy center who helps people with developmental disabilities is facing possible closure.

Magic Moments Riding Therapy, 272 County Ln. 125, Diamond, made the announcement on Monday.

“Our situation is very serious,” said Jeanne Brummet, director. “We depend on donations to cover the majority of our operating expenses and this year, everyone has cut back. We are nearly out of money right now. We are literally down to our last few thousands dollars. And will not be able to feed our horses or pay our bills after January unless we get assistance now.”

The center began in December 1998, when Brummet’s daughter, Rachel, went through a riding clinic.

“Then we moved here, there was not a (riding therapy) center in this area and we felt that it was important,” Brummet said. “We work with a lot of developmental disabilities. The movement of the horse as the person rides, causes changes in the human brain, and during the time when they are riding, you can work with them and target different things that they might need help with. You can work on balance, posture and speech and muscle strength in different areas of the body. And when you are in the field of therapy, providing that you studied it, it is kind of like you have honed your craft to actually target different areas, using the horse and using your knowledge to make improvements in specific things. We work a lot with autism; we work on getting these kids out of their little world that they stay in most of the time and brining them into our world, through the use of the activities and movement of the horse. We work with kids that cant walk. We have gotten children out of wheelchairs and off of their walkers and be able to walk and run like other children. But it is a question to how to use these horses to get these things accomplished.”

Horseback riding is therapeutic because the motion of the walking horse stimulates the human brain and has an effect on 25 sensory-motor systems in the human body, promoting improved muscle tone, improved walking gait, flexibility, self-confidence, speech-language, balance, posture and more, according to information provided by the business.

Contrary to belief, therapeutic horseback riding is not a new technique. It was used extensively in Europe after WWII to treat victims of polio. It was brought to the United States later on and it is gaining recognition in the medical field.

During the last 10 years, Brummet said they have helped more than 300 people. They also have worked with area Girl Scouts by teaching them about horses, teaching them how to ride, etc. during the summer camp.

And as far has how they have helped those with disabilities, Brummet said it shows.

“I just had a mom today (Monday) that called me, whose son rides here, that is frantic, because her son literally can not get through school without riding,” she said. “For this kid, he goes into sensory overload and he can't function at school. And she had to take him out for a couple of months and she had to bring him back. They could do absolutely nothing with him, nothing. Not at home, not at school. She is frantic and she doesn’t know what she is going to do if we go under."

Now it is time for the public to help Magic Moments Riding Therapy Center.

“To operate for a year, we need $50,000,” Brummet said.

Brummet is asking for any donations. Donations can be taken to any Arvest Bank or mail to 272 County Ln. 125, Diamond, Mo. 64840.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Group exercise helps disabled kids

WASHINGTON: Group exercise programs, treadmill training and horseback riding can benefit kids with developmental disabilities, according to a new review of studies.
According to research analyzed by Connie Johnson, PT, a physical therapist with the Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, by doing these kinds of activities, kids with disorders such as autism, mental retardation and cerebral palsy can improve their coordination and aerobic fitness.
The researchers said that the findings are encouraging, since studies show that children with developmental disabilities tend to be less fit than their peers.
Johnson analyzed 14 studies and three other evidence reviews to determine how youth with developmental disabilities might benefit from physical activity.
The strongest evidence of benefits came from studies of group exercise, therapeutic horseback riding and treadmill workouts.
Skiing and swimming programs might also be beneficial, but the evidence from those programs was not as strong.