Strides Therapeutic Horsemanship Center: Unlocking Human Potential with Horses

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This article was originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of Living TC Magazine. All photos taken by Keely Bowen, Nationally award-winning photographer at Pieta Elegante, pietaelegante.com.

Strides Therapeutic Horsemanship Center

180 Honeysuckle Road / Pasco, WA 99301 / Strides@StridesTherapeuticHorsemanshipCenter.org / (509) 492-8000

Strides had my heart from the moment I set foot at their beautiful location on Honeysuckle Road in Pasco, WA. It is a very special place, where volunteers and therapy horses work together to make a big difference in the lives of individuals facing overwhelming physical and mental challenges. There is great power in these beautiful animals because they are uniquely adapted to be especially sensitive to and therapeutic for their riders.

Strides came about because Jennifer Casey, DPT, wanted a better way to help one of her pediatric clients with autism. Jennifer teamed with Jill McCary, an autism intervention specialist and a horse named Scribbles. Jill says, “I could talk forever about Strides and tell story after story of how this organization is changing lives.”

Strides is now the home of fifteen horses who work alongside an industrious and passionate Board of Directors, two PATH-certified instructors, four therapists (including one Hippotheraphy Clinical Specialist) as well as over forty trained community volunteers. Four of Strides’s horses were rescued from going to slaughter and four were rescued from neglect.

Visitors to Strides can expect to be moved by these gentle giants. There is a special, quiet feeling among the horses at Strides. When I walked out to meet them, I felt like I had several horses looking at me and reading me. They are service animals with big hearts. They are trained specifically to be especially resilient to human interaction. Jill says, “We throw every curve ball at them in their training. These are highly experienced horses.”

Strides Therapeutic Horsemanship Center works as a non-profit 501c3 volunteer organization. Among their services are: assisted activities and therapies for children and adults with special needs. They offer: adaptive riding, hippotherapy and private lessons. They are a PATH accredited center and their mission is to demonstrate the highest levels of inclusion, compassion and caring.

I had the opportunity to attend the Strides Masquerade Gala last February at the Stone Ridge Event Center. At the event, one rider took the mic and shared how her experience with Strides has changed her life for the better. Everyone was inspired by her ability to convey in words her love for the program and her therapy horse. We are so fortunate to have this wonderful organization so close to our Tri-Cities community.

​Riders are both young and elderly with a wide range of physical and mental challenges. Strides makes it a point to focus on the riders current abilities and build on those. It is amazing how placing a rider on a horse can help him achieve his goals. For example, one of their young riders was unable to swallow new foods. But while sitting on top of his therapy horse, he was willing to try and swallow new foods that he would never have tried at home. Jill says, “We have children that don’t speak and then we hear their first words while they are sitting on the back of a horse.”

Strides can help riders who are dealing with various challenges from: Trisomy 21, autism, sensory processing disorders, brain injury, cerebral palsy, spinal muscular atrophy, spinal cord injury, stroke, developmental delays and others. Strides works with parents, caregivers, physicians and therapists to design custom lessons to fit the needs of individual riders.

Cheyenne, a rider’s mother says, “Strides truly is the best thing that ever happened to my daughter! Within just a few short months of working with these wonderful horses, my daughter – who couldn’t even push herself up off the floor from a belly or back laying position (at age 2), was pushing herself up, crawling, and cruising furniture! By the start of the next year’s season she was walking!”

To participate in Strides’s Adaptive Riding Program, individuals or their family members need to complete an application form, which includes an annual doctor’s assessment and release. The form can be printed from Strides’s website and mailed in. For more information, visit: stridestherapeutichorsemanshipcenter.org/new-rider-check-list.

Strides strives to keep their rates as affordable as possible for their riders while still providing quality service. There is a $50 initial evaluation. Six weeks of group lessons costs $200 and six weeks of private lessons costs $300. Please keep in mind that rates are subject to change to allow Strides to continue in providing an exceptional experience to their riders.

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This summer, Strides will be introducing its new program, “Horses and Heroes,” which will serve our local veterans, law enforcement, firefighters and EMS responders who have suffered physical injury or trauma while in the line of duty. The instructor is former military and a former cop. Fundraising for this program will come from the generous support of the community. Strides is needing approximately $150-200 per rider in this program. Donations are secure through the Strides website and the donation button is in the upper right. Visit here to make a tax deductable donation: stridestherapeutichorsemanshipcenter.org.

The Board of Directors are so appreciative of every Strides volunteer who collectively spend countless hours feeding horses, changing water troughs and cleaning pens to ensure the horses receive the highest quality care as well as their work in the arena. What is gained is smiles on both the rider’s faces as well as volunteers. Strides is truly a place where joy is shared in abundance. Jill says, “People often say how much we are helping our riders but what they overlook is how profoundly our riders are helping us.”

The minimum age to volunteer is age ten (with parental supervision); potential volunteers eighteen years or older will require a background check. Volunteers will attend orientation and receive all necessary job specific training. Strides asks that volunteers maintain a consistent schedule for a minimum of three months. Other responsibilities include: leading the horse, horse care, maintaining facility, organizing special events and assisting in the office. To request to volunteer, send an E-mail to: strides@stridestherapeutichorsemanshipcenter.org.

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