Monday, August 31, 2015

WIndrush Farm Offers Adaptive Horseback Riding in a Massachusetts State Park

This month I once again visited Bradley Palmer State Park in Topfield, MA to assist with an annual adaptive horseback riding program facilitated by Windrush Farm Therapeutic Equitation. Four horses and a dozen or so staff and volunteers from Windrush Farm provided 40 minute trail walks through the forested park. A ramp - trailered in an unfolded on site - allowed riders to walk up to a platform from which they could safely mount the calm horses, with assistance if needed.

Interested riders had pre-registered and filled out paperwork to meet the requirements of riding, including a doctor's signature. Individuals, families and groups came to fill the four riding spots per hour. My job was simply to greet and further register people arriving on site and serve as a liaison between Windrush Farm, park staff, and the public. It was a hot day and some riders had cancelled last minute. The horses and their attendant staff stayed cooler in the shade between excursions.

Windrush Farm is one of the earliest established therapeutic horseback riding facilities in the United States. "We are all capable of more than we think - whether disabled or not" was a motto of Marj Kittredge, the original founder who was inspired in 1964 to open the doors to horseback riding for youth with disabilities in Boxboro, MA. Today Windrush Farm is a premier accredited center through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International and is a nationally recognized leader in the equine-assisted activities and therapies industry. "We feel very fortunate to have Windrush Farm provide trail rides at a local state park as part of DCR's Universal Access Program", said Richard Scott, supervisor of Bradley Palmer State Park, a popular spot for horseback riding in general. Windrush Farm now also serves youth at risk, veterans, patients in rehabilitation, and victims of human trafficking and other abuses, as well as adults with disabilities.

Squash, Sky, Tucker and Clifford were our horses of the day, patiently waiting in the heat and transporting their riders into a world with new perspective and possibility. Rita DiCicco and Charlie Roche were two first time riders who were thrilled to find themselves head and shoulders above the crowd of staff. Don Summerfield returned from previous years to enjoy the opportunity once again. Amanda Saldana and her mother Nancy loved adding horseback riding to one of the many adaptive recreation opportunities they have sampled this summer.

There are many benefits of therapeutic riding. Contact with horses can build self esteem and confidence as well as trust building and communication skills. Riding the animals can soothe spasms, strengthen muscles, improve posture, and stimulate bilateral rhythms of walking. Other benefits include fresh air, cultivating perseverance and a sense of empowerment. Caring for animals, as clients do at the stables, fosters responsibility.

To find out more about year round therapeutic riding, contact Windrush Farm! DCR's Universal Access Program plans to continue offering the annual program at Bradley Palmer State Park next August.

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