Recognizing the positive impact of animal interaction on children with special needs, particularly with dogs and horses, the St. Andrews Optimists recently enjoyed an enlightening presentation from Dream Riders. This therapeutic horse riding experience is situated at Sunrise Farm in Lexington.
Presenters Jennifer Stoudemire, Head Riding Instructor and Program Director, and Corky Dyer, Farm Owner and Special Olympics readiness specialist, shared their expertise as Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructors (CTRI). The program also involves dedicated volunteers, aged 14 and above, who undergo extensive training.
Dream Riders welcomes clients as young as four years old. Following a screening process, clients embark on an initial visit, akin to an audition, determining the subsequent steps. Typically, clients engage in weekly visits lasting between 20 to 40 minutes, paired with one of the five horses at the Farm based on their needs.
Each horse at Dream Riders possesses a unique personality and undergoes training to ensure a calm and patient demeanor with clients. Ranging from 3 to 22 years old, these horses offer consistency in gait and rhythm, providing predictability and comfort for riders. Once a suitable match is established, clients ride the same horse for every lesson.
The therapeutic benefits extend beyond riding skills, encompassing the development of self-esteem, the ability to follow instructions, strength and balance, among other attributes. Dream Riders doesn’t limit its services to younger clients; the staff also works with adults dealing with PTSD.
Ensuring accessibility, the stables are ADA certified with amenities such as a mounting platform (riders are not expected to mount from ground level) and a ramp. Funding for Dream Riders is sourced from per-lesson fees and support from Midlands Gives, highlighting the community’s role in sustaining this valuable therapeutic experience.”
Pictured are Club President Kerry Powers, Stoudemire, Dyer, and speaker sponsor Gary Boyd. The speakers received a copy of the Optimist Creed.