Inside EquiCenter: Part I

Megan Kaiser is a volunteer at EquiCenter, a New York facility that offers therapeutic riding, hippotherapy, vaulting and horsemanship (equine facilitated mental health) sessions. In her first of a two-part series, she takes us on a visit to the center.

From Megan:

We all know the healing power that horses have for us.  When I was in graduate school and living with my mom, if I came home particularly grumpy she would tell me to go to the barn and clean stalls.  She knew that I would come home happier.  I would accomplish something that directly benefited another living creature and that would center me.  To this day when someone hears I ride and they ask, “Isn’t that really expensive?,” my response is that a shrink would be more expensive.  That big muddy carrot fiend that demands his head scratched is my therapist – he listens to everything I say (in return for carrots and head scratching).  Nothing is wrong when my view is from between that pair of chestnut ears.

But then you go to a place where riding truly is a therapy.  Where speech delayed kids speak their first words to a horse.  Where people with limited mobility feel the freedom of going where they want because they have four extra legs to get them there.  Where at risk youth learn to care for and trust another living being.  Where injured veterans retrain their muscles and improve their balance on the back of a horse.

I have volunteered at The EquiCenter, located in Honeoye Falls, NY, in the past with their at-risk youth program and really enjoyed it.  Hearing that the kids participating looked forward to going there as much as I did made it even better.  I loved helping them feed and brush and teaching them silly things like why we get on from the left side.  Being way over-committed has prevented me from volunteering recently but I will return to help out, with my kids in tow.

This week I went to their new facility (with a large bag of treats) to look around, watch a lesson, and talk with some of the people.  I was so happy to see a trainer that has been there since I volunteered years ago.  She is so well suited for what she does: energetic, personable, patient, kind, and I’ve seen her be firm when needed.  She was just finishing up a lesson with a little girl who had never ridden before and obviously enjoyed it very much.  Her next lesson was with a very animated boy who gave her the biggest hug when he came running in.  He had so much energy he could not contain it at moments but she had him focused on Sprit and they got right down to work.   Sprit took the boy’s energy and exuberant noises all in stride and was a perfect gentleman.

The facility is extremely well organized and very impressive.  With 22 horses and five to ten lessons a day you would have to be.  The volunteers had the horses ready for each lesson before the rider arrived and they were well taken care of after they had done their work.

I met some lovely horses and I will tell you about them in another post but for now go find your local therapeutic riding center and drop off a bag of carrots, fix a fence, clean out a pasture, or just say thank you to the horses and people that are there. Because as much as you need and get something out of being around horses there are others that get even more from it.


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