This morning we went to a farm near Emma's school to learn about their therapeutic riding program. Emma has ridden horses since she was about 20 months old and when we moved she kept at it for a few months before the long commute had us make the hard decision to stop riding at that program - we really, truly loved the atmosphere and people and it was hard to say goodbye.
Now that we are more settled in our new area we are looking at more local therapeutic riding programs. Our main reason in enrolling in a program is to help Emma gain better trunk control and also give her a fun extracurricular activity. The girls love horses and being around them so they were really happy this morning as we ventured out for a tour of a local therapeutic riding program. The farm we visited today is close to Emma's school (about 35 minutes away from our house) so if we did enroll there we would try and have her lesson coincide with her school schedule to cut down on extra driving/commute time, which would be nice.
The program is pretty new and still growing. They were a horse breeding farm but trained to provide therapeutic riding and now do that exclusively. Their program started about 3 years ago, is certified by PATH, and they have about 9 riders and 19 horses/ponies. Recently, they were awarded some grant money to expand their equipment so they could start to offer more riding opportunities and really hope to open up more options for veterans to ride. The people we met there were very nice and the horses seem very well loved!
Julia was happy to meet a couple of the animals. They had a Hinny which is a donkey/pony mix that was very friendly and they brought her out to meet the girls. Her name is Jill and there is a miniature donkey in another field and his name is Jack. Jill was definitely more friendly than Jack who was a bit more shy. We also were able to meet a few of the horses and Julia was happy to learn the names of many of them because she really likes to put names to horses. It's kind of her thing.
Emma had no hesitation in reaching out to pet Jill. She was really cute and shaggy with her furry winter coat and her size was just right for Emma to reach her without the need to get out of her chair and have someone hold her up.
Chris and I liked this program, but we are probably going to check out one or two more programs before we decide. The other two programs are much larger and have been in business for a very long time. It seems that we often favor smaller programs over larger ones in the various decisions we've made for Emma so far, but really most of our decisions are made from our gut. We've found that somehow you just know which program fits best after you visit a place and speak with the people so we need to visit a couple more farms before we make a final decision.
The other reason we are being cautious in choosing a program rather than just jumping right in is that we get really attached and often have a hard time jumping ship so I want to make sure we make the right choice the first go around. Changing therapists/programs/aides is hard on Emma and it takes a bit of time to gain her trust that the person will understand her subtle communications, won't let her fall, will give her the support she needs, etc. I'm looking forward to checking out the other programs for comparison and hopefully starting with one again soon.