Volunteering With Horses

In Columns, Features, Moments with Michelle by Michelle Henson

Most of the readers of Audacity Magazine know of my love of horses if they have read my previous articles. This past weekend, I was asked by my previous physical therapist to accompany her to her annual Kids Can Do, Inc. event. Kids Can Do is located in Mokena and Manteno, Ilinois. This facility offers physical, speech and occupational therapy to children who are disabled. Once a year, they hold an event to gather all of their disabled patients to participate in a social event. This year, they decided to hold the event at Carousel Stables, a recreational horseback riding facility that specializes in show ring riding, handicapped individuals and the terminality ill.

Connie Jackson, who is the Owner/Manager/Trainer at Carousel Stables, opened the facility in 1998, and it has been open ever since. The event gathered over fifty disabled children, whose disabilities ranged from mild to severe. It was very exciting to see all the children light up while riding the horses around in a circle. There is also a staff that volunteers their time to lead the horses and sidewalk, several things that challenged the children’s abilities while having something fun to do.

The event offered many activities that included, brushing ponies, taking a holiday picture with a horse, running around outside, sitting near the camp fire, munching on some snacks, and riding the gentle horses a couple of times around the arena. I would call this event a success. All of the children accomplished something that made them smile. Many of the children had never participated in riding a horse and were timid at first, but, once on, we could barely get them off. Parents were amazed at how much control a child could have on such a giant animal. Many of the children showed they wanted their independence.

Parents were surprised to see the willpower of these children while they tried to push away the assistance of their parents. They actually wanted to ride by themselves and be independent. That was wonderful to see. Knowing myself how much a disabled child relies on their parents, it was good to see they wanted that independence. That is one quality I think every disabled child needs to experience, to know they can achieve things alone and don’t always need the help of others. It was a great experience for me to see how much children do love the feeling of horseback riding.

Connie Jackson not only has the standard horses usually used in horseback riding, but also has a variety of other horses, including Arabians, Clydesdales, thoroughbreds and Shetland ponies. The children had the choice of which horse they wanted to ride; oddly enough, most of them wanted to ride the giant Clydesdales. I usually ride a painted pony that only stands about ten hands high, but was privileged to ride the Clydesdales. They have a smooth stride that amazed me, because by looking at them you would think it is very bouncy. It also proves a bigger stretch because you have to grasp their giant bodies with your legs.

I just w anted to write about this event because it was

an awesome experience for me, and I would gladly do it again. I think, whenever possible, you should take the time out of your daily busy life and volunteer your time to someone who needs you. It is a great feeling to know you are giving back to your community. If you would like to acquire more information on Carousel Stable, visit www.midweststabledirectory.com . You can also locate a stable near your area.