VITAL PROGRAM- A youngster benefits from programs offered through the Central Alberta Special Equestrians. Organizers are looking to the community for more support to continue to offer services.

Central Alberta Special Equestrians changing lives with four-legged friends

Organization currently on the lookout for board members and volunteers

Central Alberta Special Equestrians was established in 1984 and has been helping disabled persons regain skills and confidence through riding horses.

Sylvia Johnson, secretary treasurer with CASE, said it is an important community program that receives less attention than it should.

“We really need board members right now, people who can help fundraise, update the web site and take on general duties.”

The program is currently not running because of the lack of board members, but Johnson said they would like to see it move forward this winter.

“We had a gentleman in Rocky Mountain House offer us the use of his trail horses for the winter, so we would like to see the program running by then.”

The annual general meeting for the group is on Oct. 6th and Johnson said they would love to see people who are interested in helping take part in the meeting.

“The program offers people with disabilities the chance to be in control, they get to control the horse and they learn how to groom the horses and take care of something.”

Therapeutic riding can be beneficial for many different reasons and Johnson said it is not just for physical disabilities. She said she remembers having a deaf participant who was just looking for an outlet and a way to be in control.

As well as being a board member and heavily involved in CASE for many years, Johnson also has a son who remained a part of the group of riders for many years.

“My son had brain damage when he was born and his attention span was very short. We found with the riding program that he actually was able to concentrate more on listening and following directions.”

The group also has a saddle with a full back support that a rider can be strapped into so that people with paralysis or upper body strength issues can take part.

Johnson said one of the memorable cases was a little girl who had no verbal skills upon entering the program. Through her interaction with the horses and grooming and riding, she began speaking to the horse. “We have certainly had a variety of riders from young children to adults, and most of them just really love to come in and ride the horses.”

Johnson laughed when remembering that many of the riders would bring in snacks for their favourite horses. “Of course horses love apples and carrots and they got a lot of those.”

The board meets once a month to discuss ideas and the organization’s progress and Johnson said that the sub-committees could meet as often as they needed to once they were established.

“We really just need people that are interested in keeping the program going and getting it up and running soon.”

Johnson explained that CASE works hard with subsidizing the program to keep the costs as low as possible for the riders.

The program also provides an opportunity for people with disabilities to be in control and Johnson said that alone does a lot for the self-esteem of the riders.

“There are no limitations on the disabilities that we can accept. There are a lot of people with disabilities that haven’t had a chance to take part in this.”

Johnson said the board is currently running with about four members and they would like to see an increase to a team of about 10.

Volunteers are also needed and Johnson said that in the past the volunteers have really enjoyed getting to know the riders as well as seeing their improvements.

“They like to see the big smiles, and the gratification is more than anything else. We have some volunteers that have been with us for years and they see the progress of the kids that keep coming back.”

Johnson said they will take students doing work experience if they are looking into getting in a rehabilitative line of work so they can see if it is what they will enjoy.

“Things are on track now if we could just get some people to help us out and get us going and give some guidance, we’d be great.”

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