Back in the Saddle: Part 7 – A Rider & His Family

In this seventh and final edition of the Back in the Saddle Blog Series, we will hear from Sandy, the mother of one of the riders I have had the pleasure of getting to know while volunteering as a sidewalker at Cincinnati Therapeutic Riding & Horsemanship (CTRH). Please join me in welcoming Sandy to the blog.

Hello, Sandy. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. I understand Chris has been riding for quite some time. How did your family first learn about the equine therapy and adaptive recreational riding programs at CTRH?

In this picture, Chris is volunteering at CTRH with the adult program at Stepping Stones in 2004. One of his favorite jobs was doing the shavings. He soon develop a connection with the horses. This is where his love of riding started.

He has been riding for about 20 years.

How do you get a loved one involved with such a program?

Chris actually got me involved with this awesome program! Procedures and paperwork will vary by program, but we started by filling out a registration form and going for an interview. We also had to have fill out a medical form. 

In my experience, most riders register to attend one hour-long class a week during an eight-week session. Many riders will continue to ride during subsequent sessions throughout the year. Is that what the commitment looks like for you?

Yes. For our family, the commitment is one we all embrace because we see all the joy Chris receives through participation in the program.

What is Chris’s favorite skill to practice or game to play during a class?

Chris’s favorite skill to practice is going through the cones and following a pattern. He also likes to practice two-point position and trotting.

What physical, mental, and social benefits have you observed through his participation in the program?

The physical benefits are improved balance, maintaining good posture, and core strength. Mentally, it has improved his focus and ability to follow instructions. Socially, he has gained friendships with fellow riders and volunteers. He is an awesome cheerleader for other riders and loves to encourage them.

My daughter, who is Chris’s twin, teaches special education and was amazed at the difference in his balance and verbal skills after participating in the program.

Chris always looks comfortable and confident on horseback. Has there ever been a time when he was afraid to ride? What happened? How did you/the instructor/the volunteers get him back in the saddle?

Chris has been confident since day one! I think volunteering and working around the horses made him more comfortable. He has fallen off two times! Both times he did get back on but later he was afraid. Switching horses solved the apprehension. Volunteers and instructors encouraged him and kept him engaged.

Please tell us how he got involved with Special Olympics? What is his favorite part about competing in Special Olympics?

Chris has been involved with Special Olympics for many years through swimming. Beth and Fran, two ladies at CTRH, got the ball rolling with the equestrian games. I think his favorite part is getting dressed in his English riding gear and showing off his skills. Chris won a gold medal in his class the first year he competed!

When and where is this summer’s competition?

This year’s competition is on September 9 in Springfield, Ohio.

Before we talk more about this event, I’d like to thank you once again, Sandy. We’ve heard from instructors and volunteers, but it was great to get a glimpse of an equine therapy / therapeutic riding program from a parent’s perspective. I’ll see you and Chris at the barn!

Special Olympics: Equestrian Games

Riders from across Ohio’s 88 counties will gather for this summer’s event at Champions Center Arena in Springfield, Ohio. The schedule will begin with A Parade of Counties. The Western and English/dressage events will run throughout the day on Saturday, September 9, and Sunday, September 10. (Schedule TBD).

Training for year’s event has started. The pattern varies by class. The riders with whom I volunteer are practicing a pattern that involves walking from one cone to another cone at the far end of the arena. The rider halts the horse and backs up four steps before tracking to the left. After completing a circle, the rider then heads to the final cone where he once again halts the horse, counts to five, and then completes the pattern. The rider is not permitted to receive feedback or instruction from the horse leaders or sidewalkers. I have enjoyed being part of the additional excitement at the barn in the weeks leading up to the competition. Please join me in wishing these riders the best as they get back in the saddle to prepare for the Ohio State Fall Games.

To learn more about Special Olympics and how you can get involved, please visit their website. As always, thank you for reading.