People often wonder about the population that Giant Steps serves. While we try to profile riders in our newsletters from time to time it really is difficult to convey how diverse, special, and unique each of our riders is. Saturday currently serves youth and young adults, and it is a great snapshot of the diversity of our programming.
Saturdays begin with an army of volunteers coming to the barn to help feed, water, groom, and tack the horses. Some of the volunteers are in school during the week and give their time on Saturdays, while others work a full-time Monday – Friday job and look forward to their time with the horses and riders and giving back to the community over the weekend. All are amazing!
Our early classes on Saturdays include some of our youngest riders. Many are working on following directions, expressive and receptive language, appropriate behavior, and core strength and balance. Most of these riders have a leader and 1-2 sidewalkers helping them to execute the directions given by the instructor. While the students ride, smile, laugh, and sometimes struggle in their class, their parents find community with other parents of special needs children. They exchange stories, resources, and support in a setting unlike others in their daily lives. They are able to get outside, meet other parents with similar challenges, and sometimes enjoy a walk around the beautiful equestrian center.
Up next are clients who require full support to ride their horses. These riders are in wheelchairs and are working on core strength. The riders and the volunteers work hard physically in these classes, but the reward for both is incredible. These riders mount using our equestrian lift and spend an hour riding on the backs of our amazing horses instead of in their wheelchairs. The riders and the volunteers leave the class physically tired but emotionally charged.
As the day goes on the riders get a little older and more independent. We have a young adults, preteens, and teens who amaze everyone with the equestrian skills. These riders are working on independence and the results are outstanding. Some riders have only leaders or spotters as they complete the patterns created by their instructors. They are confident individuals who steer, stop and guide their horses. Many of these riders have been with Giant Steps for many years and they have bonded with their horses, volunteers and other riders. If these riders can control a thousand pound horse, what can’t they do?
Saturdays are rounded out with our most advanced clients. These riders tack their horses, care for their horses and are working on trotting independently and even cantering. Perhaps most impressive though, is that some of these riders are now volunteering in Giant Steps classes and giving back to the program and fellow clients.
Photos by Lisa Rose Small Business Photography.