Like nearly every pre-teen girl in the company of a horse, the young ladies riding around the ring are smiling and making an occasional sigh or giggle. The two girls on this breezy May afternoon at Greystone Manor are not just there to assuage their overwhelming horse obsessions- as is often the case with girls. These young ladies are receiving equine therapy with lead instructor, Karen Weber-Zug and four volunteers.
It is quite a ratio, two volunteers per girl and a teacher split between them. Both of these riders are advanced and only require a leader and one side spotter. For beginners, there would be a side spotter on both sides of the horse. Bringing the ratio up to three dedicated volunteers per rider plus the instructor. That may seem like a lot of manpower for a therapy session, but everyone involved will tell you that it is absolutely worth it.
Greystone Manor Therapeutic Riding Center on Hartman Station Rd is a lovely property and was once used by local riders to board show horses that were pampered and preened for Hunter-Jumper events and Steeple Chase. These days the horses are much more laid back and docile. The horses that Heather Mitterer, director of GMTRC, searches for are ones that can walk, trot, and canter but can also handle lots of human contact, loud noises, and the unpredictable movements that some of the riders may make during the therapy sessions.
Providing six six-week sessions every year from February through November is no small feat for this small non-profit group. The company charges $350 for a rider to take part in a six-week session and many of the riders continue to come back session after session. Heather has witnessed rider after rider find a deep sense of self-confidence through the therapeutic riding sessions. Everything from better posture and muscle control to more intangibles like wearing brighter colors or a new bold hair style begins to manifest in the students. This sentiment was echoed by one of the young rider’s mothers, “We don’t do any other therapy at this point, it is just the riding now.”
The young ladies couldn’t contain their smiles as they walked the horses back to the stables after a brief walk around the outside grounds. As the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services rolls out a new service for Music, Art, & Equine Assisted Therapy on July 1, 2017, it is without question one of the highlights for those with disabilities in the Commonwealth. The Equine Therapy can be provided to individuals of any age as it is not covered by Medical Assistance. The state would cover about $40 per one hour session, so a total of around $240 towards the $350 fees that the Greystone Manor Therapeutic Riding Center charges for the six-week session.
If you are interested in adopting a horse (cover the cost of boarding, feed, and medical care), making a donation, or attending one of the GMTRC events, please go to www.greystonemanortrc.org for more information. Excentia has several riders who frequent Greystone and ride in the annual horse show. Excentia hopes to get even more of the people we support involved in the Equine Therapy programs at Greystone. Join us in our excitement and support this valuable therapy.