Northwest Profiles: Therapeutic Riding

>>They come from all over the greater Spokane area, riders and volunteers, together accomplishing one goal – providing therapy that is primarily delivered on the back of a horse! Located about 5 miles southwest of the city of Spokane on the property of Westar Ranch, an equine-assisted recreational sport riding program with an emphasis on riding based goals is achieved for riders with special needs. Free Rein therapeutic riding a non-profit organization, is the brainchild of Sandy Jones, a horse enthusiast with a background as a physical therapist assistant in hippotherapy. Begun in 2008 she created a PATH certified program with the mission of serving individuals in the Spokane area with therapeutic riding for all ages and all disabilities. (Sandy Jones) We started with 18 riders and about 45 volunteers that first summer now we have 65 riders about 110 or 115 volunteers Start them at about age 4 those we usually do one-on-one until they get a little bit bigger and till we’re more comfortable of them being on a horse. As they’re little bit older will be ride in classes with 3 to 4 riders so that’s a nice interaction for them, their goals are always riding based goals no matter what level that they are at, all the way through adults. The animal piece of it is big the connection that our riders have with a real live being so it’s very motivating, from a physical standpoint, the moment is very beneficial the movement of the horse walking is the same as the movement of a human walking the way that they move their pelvis is the same as we move our pelvis so it’s going to not only strengthen the right muscles for those that are working on walking but it’s also going to feel what it feels like for those movements so it’s very beneficial If you’ve ever sat on a horse or been on a horse when it’s moving you know that your body is always compensating for the movement of that horse so you’re working all those core movements continually and our riders are riding half an hour to an hour so that’s a really good workout for their core muscles for riders that have autism there’s something that’s very calming and soothing about the movement of the horse we have some riders with autism that their parents will say that this is one of the calmest places that they see them is on that horse probably about a third of our riders have autism about a third of them have cerebral palsy it’s a real mix of different disabilities so there’s benefits to all of them.>>Holistic connections, between rider and horse, between volunteer and rider and between rider and volunteer, make Free Rein a unique entity, one that tries to be available to anyone that could use the positive effects of it’s program. Sara Edge and Molly Reed are the parents of children that have been involved with Free Rein nearly since it’s inception… (Molly Reed) For Savannah it gives her core strength, I tell her all the time this is her sport this is her way to be like the other kids and do an activity the average kids don’t always get to do. (Sara Edge) Zach has been doing it about the same length as savannah he started he was laying sideways and the side walkers would have to hold him on the horse and now he’s riding and holding the reins and turning the horse trotting its many huge improvement in his life. They’ve been tireless in their devotion to these kids into making opportunities arise for more kids and more people and it’s just changed a lot of lives. (Molly Reed) And all of the volunteers every single week without the volunteers here the kids wouldn’t be able to ride and do all the things that they do. (Sandy Jones) For some of our riders this is one they can really own it’s a leveling field for the riders that are more capable are really working on steering their horse and controlling their horse to control this thousand pound animal is huge where they struggle to get up the stairs at home so it’s pretty neat to see them be able to have that and have something that is their thing that they can do.>>Operating a program like Free Rein does cost money. The organization charges a tuition that covers about a third of their expenses, while the other two thirds are covered by fundraising. We make sure that finances are not an issue we don’t want to exclude anybody from the benefits of therapeutic riding. We have a scholarship fund that is something that people can donate directly into then there’s the balance of that two thirds we do a big barn dance and auction it is an annual event so that’s our big fundraiser for the year we do another campaign in the fall where it’s called paint the pony, a painted pony that as we raise money we’ll indicate on this painted pony how much money we have raised.>>With a stable of 6 horses to draw from, and a total of 5 instructors and 115 or so active volunteers, on any given riding day there is bound to be a bunch of activity at the barn. (Sandy Jones) We get a lot of people that come out and want to be with the horses and that was a draw for me when I first started volunteering, because it was my horse fix so many people just get so sucked in we just have a group of people that come out and their families are just phenomenal people, and the benefits are profound and to be a part of that…is so powerful. I’m a horse person so be able to come out and share that with these people and to see the benefits that happen every day with these riders coming out and being able to experience the horse every year I’m reminded of how much I love what I’m doing and how much it means to me to be able to offer this to people. Savannah Reed: It’s really really awesome and I get to ride horses Zack Edge: It’s awesome