Can a Horse Teach a Boy to Talk? Here's a true story told by one of our parents this past session. We hope it will touch your hearts as it did ours, and that you will think about Handi-Riders at 'giving' time of year. "My son was only three years old and was not talking except for a few words. Our speech therapist recommended Handi-Riders. I thought Brandon would be too afraid of the horse and we would end up just going back home. When we arrived everyone was so helpful and understanding. The staff and volunteers were wonderful. They took Brandon by the hand and guided him to meet 'his horse' and helped him get on the horse. I couldn't believe my eyes. My son was allowing strangers to help him on a horse and he looked like he loved it! I had to hold back the tears as I was overwhelmed with emotion. In order for the horse to go he has to use his words and say 'walk-on'.
Our 12 year old son, Ayden, has been a participant at Handi Riders for about 7 years, and has loved every minute of every session. At first, we weren't sure if he could command a horse, let alone stay on it; he was still mostly nonverbal and seemed so small compared to the horse he was paired with. Our concerns were completely dissipated when we saw him begin to interact with the wonderful instructor and the indispensible volunteers who never left his side. The horse also seemed as if to understand his special needs and responded to him accordingly. Ayden made a special bond with him that helped to calm him as well as draw him out of his own world. As he's grown, he's had the same type of bond with each horse he's ridden; and even though the instructors and volunteers have also varied, the dedication to him and all of these kids has always remained the same.
Throughout the years, we have seen Ayden grow from a child in a cocoon with outbursts of anger and frustration into a true 'people person', initiating conversations and being able to relate with others. The changes in him leave us awestruck! Although he has been, and still is, in many wonderful programs in conjunction with Handi Riders, we believe that the care and hard work of the people associated with this program have been a tremendous part in helping Ayden accomplish so much. We can't wait for many more years with Handi Riders! Thank You, Handi Riders, for all you've done and continue to do!
- LeAndra S.
Handi-Riders is such an impressive program! From the staff who care as much for the horses as they do for the students to the fun activities that are planned for the class to the incredible horses that the students grow to love, Handi-Riders is a wonderful program for staff, riders and the volunteers. My daughter Rachel began riding with Handi-Riders in 1994 and I help as one of her sidewalkers.
I have seen such growth in my daughter as well as many of the students over the years.For instance, some children cry when they mount their horse for the first time but by the end of that class, they are laughing and having a great time.They don’t want it to end!And by the end of the eight week session, they are more confident in reigning, starting and stopping their horse and other skills. And we don’t forget the carrots and treats for the horses at the end of class!We have made many new friends at Handi-Riders!
The professionalism of the staff is always evident, adherence to the safety rules are always followed, and their obvious love for what they are doing colors the class with enthusiasm.
Handi-Riders is a positive and enjoyable experience for everyone!
- Denise B.
"I just want to thank you for providing such a wonderful program to special needs children in this community. It is wonderful that you provide these children with the opportunities that they otherwise would not be included in.
My children thoroughly enjoy interacting with the horses every week. After each session they cannot talk about anything but their time with the horses and their anticipation about next week's visit. It is wonderful to see them so excited about a program that is teaching them such valuable skills. Thank you for volunteering your time to make a difference in the lives of special needs children."
"My daughter's involvement in the Handi-Riders program has been one of the best resources and opportunities to encourage her attentiveness, receptive and expressive communication (she has no spoken words), to work with her physical needs and decrease her self-abusive behavior. Most importantly, my daughter loves the program.
It is one of the few activities where she will willingly participate. Riding the horse always increases her vocalization and brings many a smile to her face."
-Handi-Riders parent and volunteer of nine years
"Where others had given up on my now 15-year old son with severe cerebral palsy, the Handi-Riders team brought a bright light to our lives. Even though he doesn't walk or talk and is confined to a wheelchair, Handi-Riders inspired us when they said that it might be possible for him someday to ride alone. As stiff and slumped over as he was when he started three sessions ago, he has come so far. Nothing can stop the smiles, deep pleasure and laughter that comes within him. He absolutely lives for his days at Handi-Riders. It is definitely the very best therapeutic program I have found in 15 years. I have to admit, I held back the tears the day my son rode out of the arena without a backrider! Hats off to Handi-Riders!!"
-From the family of a Handi-Riders rider of one year
"With help, she gets to the top of the ramp. Her horse, Glory, is waiting for her. Helmet on, eyes wide and knees shaking, she mounts and starts her "first ever" horse ride. As we head for the arena, you can see fear and apprehension on her face, but she continues on. By the end of the hour, she is triumphantly smiling and waving to Mom on the sideline. The joy she feels at her accomplishment is second only to the volunteer's joy at watching it all happen. What a feeling for both of us!"
- Handi-Riders volunteer of four years
"There is integrity, commitment and a professional wisdom coupled with a sense of humanity that makes Handi-Riders one of the finest equestrian therapy programs anywhere. There is care and attention that is given each person's needs pairing him or her to the right horse with individualized riding exercises along with the support person(s) needed to attend each rider. Each participant is challenged constantly to do his or her best in a positive, safe environment where the slightest gain is honestly praised and every effort is truly acknowledged and appreciated. The rider's contributions, insights, suggestions, ideas are always sought and encouraged along with contributions of others in the program.
How do I know all this? This Spring Session 2002 at 72, I complete my sixth session at Handi-Riders. It's not easy learning to ride a horse. It's some of the hardest work I've ever done! It takes a lot out of me but it gives me the challenge to make even the smallest improvement a real victory. It is one of the best therapy programs I've ever experienced in the 65 years I've worked with professionals over coming and managing my cerebral palsy. Handi-Riders verifies that cerebral palsy does not define me. My zest for life comes from knowing I can contribute to my fullest measure as a person doing all that makes life worth living. I love Handi-Riders, and I'll continue as long as they'll let me crawl on a horse!"
- Handi-Riders adult rider of three years