Therapy (AKA – Happiness) on Horseback

For Scott Barker, one of our agents here with Barker, Beck, Collins & Kronauge Agency, horses have been an integral part of life. When he decided on a change of pace from the competitive world of playing professional polo, he looked for an opportunity where he could still use his equine skills. Three years ago, he started volunteering for an organization called the Therapeutic Riding Institute or TRI for short. Founded in 1973, TRI’s purpose is to enrich the lives of children and adults with special needs by providing equine riding therapy. TRI’s program is only one of 36 similar programs in Ohio that have been accredited by the prestigious Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship.


<v:V:V:V:V:V:V:V:V:V:V:IMAGEDATA src="”> Each special needs person that participates in the TRI program comes once a week for a session that lasts for 5-7horse 2.jpg weeks. There are 3-4 sessions per year and many of the participants enjoy it so much that they are involved in more than one session each year. The participants are so excited about the program, that some of them have their cowboy boots on early in the morning of class day ~ even though class isn’t until evening!


Let’s take a peek at what a typical class would be like.


Each class time serves 2-3 special needs riders and lasts for about 45 minutes. Volunteers arrive a &frac12; hour or so before the participants to prepare the horses for class. As the volunteers are doing the final preparations with the horses, cheerful, excited faces peek between the fence boards surrounding the paddock. It is just about time for the class to start.


After each rider is helped onto his or her horse, two side helpers and a horse leader accompany the pair for the entire class time. The side helpers walk on either side of the horse to assist the rider in maintaining balance. The horse leader is responsible for maintaining control of his or her assigned horse, while following the directions of the instructor. The classes focus on teaching through the process of mounting, warm-up, lesson, exercise, games and dismounting. The exercises and games vary from night to night, but a typical night would find the happy faces of the riders beaming with pride as they drop colored rings in a spot designated by the instructor. Confidence soars as each rider’s skill improves and that sense of accomplishment transfers into other areas of the rider’s life.


TRI’s outreach is not limited to the special needs children and adult participants and to the volunteers who serve them. Organizations like the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and 4-H, as well as, local businesses in the area are encouraged to contact TRI to learn more about them and about horses.


In addition to contacting them directly, everyone is welcome to go to the Dayton Horse Show benefiting the Therapeutic Riding Institute on August 1 – 4th at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds. Come and enjoy a wonderful show and give back to the community at the same time. We look forward to seeing you there!