An equine assisted therapy program is set to return to Rainy Creek Ranch in January to provide weekly horse riding clinics for disabled youth and adults.
Clinics will focus on helping individuals with a variety of physical and emotional impairments, through both riding- and ground-based individually-built programs.
The benefits of the program are bountiful, according to Rainy Creek Ranch owner and program head instructor Sandra McLeod.
“There’s a huge amount of research out there that shows that horses improve all different facets of learning, and our program focuses on quite a few of the different areas that these people really need help in to succeed,” she said. “Horses are so honest in what they portray to an individual — the feedback is immediate by a horse.”
Individuals with autism or social and behavioural problems are among those most suited to the program, said McLeod. But it’s open to, and will benefit, people with nearly any type of disability, she added.
“The benefits are huge, especially physically and emotionally,” she said. “We build it around the individual: Some individuals do not want to get on the horse, and that’s fine. We can design their program to be on the ground with the horse. Some individuals want to get on the horse, and so our program would facilitate them riding.”
In a learning-based environment, participants are taught how to work with horses, and in turn learn valuable skills that will benefit them in both their future careers and lives in general, according to McLeod.
The program has been run by Rainy Creek in the past, but funding proved something of a barrier for some prospective participants, she said. The creation of new avenues of funding, however, has made it more accessible now than it’s ever been, and will help to ensure the program’s longevity, McLeod hopes.
“The research shows that (the program) needs to continue, absolutely,” she said. “There are a bunch of people pulling together this time to make sure that it continues to run.”
Central Alberta Special Equestrians (CASE) previously ran the program, but now, along with corporate sponsors and donations, acts as a source of funding for the program at Rainy Creek Ranch.
“The program is a collaborative effort of funding groups, professionals and corporations with big hearts,” said McLeod.
Its instructors are fully qualified in a number of areas, including therapeutic equestrian and fitness rehabilitation, among others.
Beginning Jan. 9, adult classes will take place Friday mornings, with youth classes to follow in the afternoon.
Information on how to register and securing funding for the program is available by contacting McLeod at firstname.lastname@example.org. Details are also posted on the Rainy Creek Ranch website at www.rainycreekranch.com.