Volunteers Needed to Support Therapeutic Riding At High Horses
Valley News - 6/3/2018
Valley News Correspondent
Sharon — Each week, about 60 riders participate in the High Horses Therapeutic Riding Program at Schleicher Farm in Sharon. Many are children and adults on the autism spectrum, but homeless youth, survivors of domestic violence, stroke victims and even individuals with mental illness benefit from the services as well.
“Riding seems to help them with focus, empathy and a whole host of things as well as balance and the physical aspects. Once you’re moving around, you feel better,” said Ellen Zaika, volunteer and site manager for the program. “And then there’s the social interaction with volunteers, staff and even the horses.”
To try to meet the volunteer needs during the summer, High Horses is holding a volunteer orientation from 9 a.m. to noon next Sunday. The orientation will include an overview of the different programs, including a veterans’ program and a physical therapy program, and give potential volunteers the opportunity to do a hands-on trial.
Zaika said that volunteers can fulfill a variety of roles at High Horses. Kids as young as 12 can help with barn chores like cleaning stalls, sweeping and setting horses outside. During lessons, three volunteers are needed for each rider. One is responsible for monitoring and leading the horse.
Two additional volunteers walk beside the rider. They are there to help the rider stay on the horse (although most riders can hold themselves up) and also to help the rider stretch, turn and complete tasks that the instructor asks. Depending on the rider’s wishes, side walkers also might chat with the rider during the lesson.
In addition to getting to work closely with horses, volunteers get to know the riders and watch them develop new skills through the program.
“They make incredible progress,” Zaika said. She recalled watching a group of children last summer who came to High Horses through Upper Valley Haven, an organization that works with people living in poverty.
“I remember looking at some of those kids thinking this could be a life-changer,” she said.
Volunteers who work with riders during the therapeutic sessions are generally asked to commit to an entire session, which lasts an hour each week for seven to eight weeks. People who are interested in volunteering can find more information at www.highhorses.org. Perspective volunteers are welcome to drop by the orientation event, or contact Zaika ahead of time by email at volunteer@Highhorses.org.