Fall Session 2018 was packed with sunshine and smiles as well as fun and excitement. A year high number of 25 riders participated at RFJ. Five of those riders were new to the Therapeutic Riding Program and two more were new in the Veterans Program. Previous riders blended well with new comers, showing them the ways of RFJ and horses.
Five riders completed evaluations, moving them off the wait list and into the active rider pool.
The Vet Center, Boise brought a group of 10 veterans to the barn. Participants spent time brushing and learning about horse communication, as well as riding. One rider stated that picking the horse’s hoof was a major accomplishment for him as a previous bad experience with horses left him terrified to be in their presence. That veteran went on to ride independently in the same day!
Another rider with a severe brain injury requested to dismount early, a behavior common for him due to his injury. With encouragement from his group members and instructor, he remounted at the end of the lesson and finished his ride, something his family member was excited to see.
Yet another veteran described how horses had provided significant healing in his life. At one point following his service, he had contemplated suicide. But he was able to seek assistance and today is doing well. He spent every available second during the veterans event at RFJ petting and talking to the horses, thrilled to be back in the quiet, comforting presence of equines.
In lieu of the traditional Harvest Party, RFJ opted to have harvest festivities during the last two days of lessons. The barn, horses and staff were decorated and dressed in a Wizard of Oz theme, complete with a Yellow Brick Road obstacle course. Many students wore costumes and enjoyed various treats.
The barn hosted a free presentation on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) presented by Ivan Hardcastle, OTR. Mr. Hardcastle has a Masters of Occupational Therapy from Idaho State University and has worked at the University of Utah Hospital inpatient rehabilitation center and the Boise Elks Pediatric outpatient clinic. He currently provides services at Primary Therapy Source in Twin Falls and Burley and has extensive education and training in the treatment of ASD.
Ivan presented on ASD at the 2018 Idaho PATH conference to high praise and agreed to bring his extensive knowledge to RFJ. The presentation came out of requests from staff and volunteers to better understand how to work with the many RFJ riders who are "on the spectrum."
RFJ’s most experienced veterans achieved a major riding goal set early in the spring by one long time rider. This veteran, who had grown up riding before a diagnosis of MS took away most of her independence and riding opportunities, had requested to try loping.
The group spent the spring and summer working on exercises and skills to prepare for the high level task. All three riders were able to successfully lope on the lunge line during two lessons, exclaiming how exciting and different the movement was from their usual trot. Next step? Loping independently!
On the final day of riding, 2018, two riders participate in the new One Time Ride program, allowing them to “interview” RFJ for possible future experiences. The riders’ parents were so excited about the process and professionalism of the program, they requested the children be placed on the active riders list, on the spot!
With so many exciting activities and experiences in 2018, the staff at RFJ can’t wait for the snow to fly by so Spring Session can bring more fun asap!