It took a few more attempts before Rorie began feeling the positive effects riding had on his muscles, while also developing a friendship with both the horse and its owner. Rorie, now 21, is now going on his seventh year participating in the Catch A Reinbow therapeutic horseback riding group and his parents are very glad they made that first trip.
He used to be in pain, his legs are better, hes grown, he sits up taller, explained his dad Reggie. After a night of riding, his legs will be shaking afterwards because it uses different muscles than when hes in the chair. It stimulates parts of his body that dont get it any other way, even though he works out at a fitness center four days a week. Hes also become good friends with his horse, which was an added bonus.
WHAT ITS LIKE TO WALK
A horses walk or gait imitates that of humans, and horses will change their gait to accommodate the rider. For someone in a wheelchair, this may be the closest theyll ever come to feeling what its like to walk. Riding a horse provides a passive stretch for tight muscles, stimulates internal organs and circulation and improves the bodys range of motion.
Studies show riders improve not only physically, but psychologically as well through the connection made between the horse and rider. Often riding increases a handicapped persons self confidence, responsibility and pride as well as instilling a sense of accomplishment.
Each rider has two people walking on either side of the horse at all times, and the horse is usually led by its owner. Volunteers trailer and transport their horses to the sessions and many have been involved in the program for years.
Its really a lot of fun, said John Yonkers, who has been transporting his two horses from Manistee for the past five years. My horses enjoy the kids riding them, the whole experience calms them down and the people Ive met have been awesome. Everyone gets a lot of enjoyment out of this.
The all-volunteer program serving Antrim, Benzie, Kalkaska, Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties relies on a small group of dedicated, dependable and caring adults and teens. Led by a certified instructor, the program works with specially-selected horses that are gentle, docile, used to being around people and noises, and are not too big or tall. The program has been held at different locations over the past nine years, including indoor arenas donated by horse owners.
I think its a great program, and very important to these kids and the volunteers, said Diane Kaser, owner of Spring Moon Equestrian Center outside of Beulah. Kaser donates the use of her indoor arena for the six week sessions. The indoor settings provide a less distracting and safer environment, and a more level surface for both horses and volunteers to walk on. Safety is first, always, explained instructor Jody Bambas, and having fun is second.
Bambas led the group of six riders in an hour-long session that included safety awareness, directing the horse, and learning to use proper commands and gestures. All riders are required to wear helmets and meet medical approval before riding. All volunteers are screened and trained to serve in a variety of roles.
Bambas is currently the only instructor in the area and the program is always looking for more. A fee for the participants is nominal and scholarships may be available. The program survives on networking and word of mouth and financial donations from individuals and organizations.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the Catch A Reinbow program should contact Patty Roth, 4-H Youth Programs, MSU-Extension, Benzie County, (231) 882-0025.