Standing Ovation by Ovation Riding: Therapeutic Riding of Tryon

Every Friday, Horse Nation teams up with Ovation Riding to spotlight an individual or organization doing good work in the horse world. Today, we’re recognizing Therapeutic Riding of Tryon, or TROT.

We worked with Therapeutic Riding of Tryon’s program director Allison Rhyne to learn more about the organization. TROT is a program of the Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE), which is a 501c corporation.

The organization’s formal mission statement:

Therapeutic Riding of Tryon (TROT) changes and enriches lives by teaching horsemanship skills to adults and children with physical, cognitive, developmental and emotional challenges in a safe, friendly and supportive environment.

How did TROT get started?

The program was initially started in 2004 and was the brainchild of Norm Powers, who put together a group of committed volunteers. These volunteers have been and are still the heart and soul of TROT. This is a very unusual program in that we own no horses. All horses are volunteered by their owners, who trailer in their horses for the afternoon and typically volunteer as horse leaders or sidewalkers. This set up is only possible because we are located in Tryon Horse Country and are surrounded by a committed community where the value of the horse/human relationship is important in everyday life. The horses are high quality individuals of many different breeds and many are retired from highly competitive careers. An intensive screening must be completed before a horse is qualified to be a TROT horse.

As you can imagine, this structure makes the program more sustainable from a cost standpoint. We currently have only two part-time paid employees:  our PATH certified instructor and a part-time program director. Our volunteers continue to be the reason this program exists and is so successful.

Nathan waves to his fan club. All photos by Sheila Veatch from the annual TROT horse show, just before Christmas.

Can you describe your students?

We serve adults and children from the following counties in North and South Carolina: Polk (NC), Rutherford (NC), Henderson (NC), Greenville (SC), and Spartanburg (SC). We have students who are challenged by many different – and sometimes multiple – conditions that range from autism to traumatic brain injury.

Our youngest student is currently six and our oldest is mid 50’s. We have almost equal numbers of adults and children who take weekly lessons for 10 weeks in the spring and 10 weeks in the fall. Our lessons are scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. We serve 32 to 35 students each session and many of them have been riding with us for multiple years.  The continuity of students and volunteers allows for the development of meaningful relationships with humans as well as with our amazing horses.

Miranda takes a blue ribbon.

How is TROT funded?

As part of FENCE, funds are raised in accordance with the FENCE development plan. Donations to FENCE are made mostly by individuals and service clubs. Income to the organization is also raised through equestrian events. Some events are put on by FENCE but many are held by other organizations who rent the FENCE facilities.

TROT does limited fund raising on its own but those efforts have been successful and have led to expanding the program. In 2016 we recruited local artists to paint portraits of the therapy horses. The artists all agreed to donate the finished artwork. These works of art were sold at a silent auction to benefit TROT. The art was also used to produce sets of note cards which were sold at local outlets. In 2017, additional horse portraits were painted and will be sold at auction. The artwork was also used to produce a desk calendar which is currently being sold in local outlets for $10. Any interested party can email [email protected] to purchase note cards or a calendar.

Amber, Kennedy and Grace await the judge’s decision and ribbons.

We have special friends of TROT who donate money, tack and equipment to our program. Money is often designated to provide scholarships for one or more students. In 2017, one of these special donors made it possible for us to purchase an Equicizer from the Wooden Horse Corporation. This great horse, “Rusty”, has just been delivered and we are looking forward to expanding our program to include work on Rusty for many of our students as a warm up or tool for practicing a new skill. We also think that he will be a great transition for students with a fear of horses, for those who are over our weight limit, and for those students who need extra support while they gain the strength and balance needed to successfully mount a real horse. Rusty can be useful in training volunteers and giving our students’ family members a taste of the horseback riding experience.

A goal for TROT in 2018 is to have enough helmets so that each student can be fitted at the beginning of the season and wear the same helmet for the 10 week period without having to readjust each week. This will be a big time saver for volunteers and will promote safety by assuring the correct fit for each student. Not to mention the money we will save on disinfectant spray!

We also apply for grant funding for specific purposes. For example, we are in the planning process for a veterans’ event and will seek grant support for expenses.

Stephen loves to ride Scout.

Tell us more about your volunteers.

The committed volunteers at TROT are the essential element. Many of our volunteers are members of local horse organizations but many are non-horsey people who have worked in education, healthcare or business and now have time to take a few hours a week to get outside and make a difference in the lives of the students. We have high school students who are completing service projects, people who take time from busy careers and those who are retired. They all share a respect for horses and the bond that a rider has with a horse.

In recruiting volunteers, we rely on word of mouth referrals from existing volunteers as well as publicity from social media posts, local newspapers, magazines and newsletters. We also reach out to the community via service clubs and civic organizations.

We need at least 60 committed volunteers each week to keep TROT tracking up!

Jonathan’s smile says it all!

Interested readers can learn more about TROT by visiting the organization’s website.

Many thanks thanks to Ovation Riding for their support of both Horse Nation and individuals and organizations that are doing good work in the horse world. If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to [email protected]. Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.

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