Pauline Deslaurier (aboard Mischief) and Dan Laplante (with Wylie) of Community Living Renfrew County South enjoy their rides in the ring last Friday. They are accompanied by volunteers. Renfrew County Therapeutic Riding Program co-ordinator Keryl Banks looks on from the centre of the ring opening day.
Steve Newman, Renfrew Mercury
It’s a dream come true, but there’s still lots of work to do as the Renfrew County Therapeutic Riding Program continues through its second week.
The program started last Friday morning at Victory Farm, a short ride from the Northcote community centre.
Donations of time and product have helped build the riding ring and accompanying facilities, but the program will also rely on volunteers.
Some volunteers have come forward, but more are needed, says program co-ordinator Keryl Banks.
One of the volunteers is Foymount teenager Laura Gordon, who attends Opeongo High School.
“I volunteered with my mom (Pat) to collect my community hours (for high school) and because I wanted to do something with animals,” said the youngster while helping out in the ring last Friday.
Other volunteers were also in the ring, along with two riders from Community Living Renfrew County South – Dan Laplante, who was apparently riding for the first time, and Pauline Deslaurier.
Each got to ride a horse, then brush and feed them afterwards.
“The relationship they develop with their horses and their surroundings gives them patience and a chance to care for someone else,” said Community Living support worker Nicole Brown.
Mischief (a Welsh Cob) and Wylie (an Appaloosa Belgian cross) are the horses used in the program, which is available for males or females who are physically or mentally challenged.
The $35 charge for one-hour sessions goes for upkeep of the facility and horses.
“I’m overly excited with the positive response and help I’ve had. It’s exciting this is finally going to happen, and I can see it growing quickly and all the people it’s going to benefit.”
Banks, a long-time rider who is certified through the Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association, says those benefits include “freedom, happiness, (a sense of) achievement, strength, skills, confidence.
“It’s just good having something that’s special, because there’s such little recreation (for people with developmental challenges).
“To have a friend in a horse, and to have a social setting where they get to meet people and horses, the benefits are just so large.”
Banks says the program is geared for those ages two and older, for “anybody with physical challenges, such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, stroke, brain injury, and developmental challenges like Down Syndrome. The program is also open to kids with ADHD and children at risk.”
Sessions will be Friday mornings, Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings until the program closes down for the season in late September.
The summer season will be followed by an October ride-a-thon. The top prize for participants collecting pledges will be a saddle.
To volunteer or for other details, call 613-570-9852.