Connie Sue Ellis, right, helps direct Austin Flanders during a therapeutic riding session at her riding center. Austin is participating in a new pilot program, Freedom Hooves.

Photo by Darian Warden

Connie Sue Ellis, right, helps direct Austin Flanders during a therapeutic riding session at her riding center. Austin is participating in a new pilot program, Freedom Hooves.

Freedom Hooves therapeutic riding offers help for those with physical/mental challenges

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Isabelle Herod, 8, helps prepare her horse Remington for her riding session. Isabelle is participating in the Freedom Hooves program.

Quotable

“It’s an extreme joy to be a part of seeing the benefits of the program, such as the self-confidence boost, joy, peace and learning.”

— Connie Sue Ellis about being involved with the Freedom Hooves program

Isabelle and Jory Herod patiently brushed, cleaned the hooves of and prepared horses Remington and Salsa to ride Saturday morning at the Dr. Scott and Connie Sue Ellis’ riding center.

Isabelle, 8, and Jory, 6, are part of a new therapeutic riding program, Freedom Hooves.

In the pilot phase, Freedom Hooves aims to help those with physical or mental challenges.

Students such as Isabelle and Jory, are involved with the horse from start to finish, preparing it to ride and, when finished, getting the horse ready to go back to its stall.

Students also learn about the body parts of the horse, placing stars with their names in appropriate places.

Program Director Joan Heinz said therapeutic riding is not the same as hippotherapy, though there are similarities.

Heinz said Freedom Hooves aims to improve participants’ skills, including core strength, balance and listening.

Bill and Donna Shue, chairman and executive director of the board, respectively, said they got on board with the program after following the work Heinz did throughout her college career and in other areas before coming home to Craig.

“We visited Joan in Idaho and helped as side walkers. We saw some of the severe cases, dealing with paraplegics,” Bill Shue said.

When they had the opportunity to get involved with Freedom Hooves locally, they immediately did so.

“There’s a definite need for this type of thing here,” Donna Shue said, adding those who want to get involved can do so with a membership, donating through United Way or direct contributions mailed to P.O. Box 963.

“There are lots of people that have various special needs, and horses are well known for therapy, just something about horses helps them,” she said.

Donna Shue said that one of her granddaughters had some physical developmental problems and that putting her on a horse seemed to equal the playing field.

“Not only did she listen better, but she was so excited,” Donna said.

The Shues said they are looking for others to join the board, become members or volunteer in anyway they can.

Amanda Campbell, secretary and treasurer for the group, said she has witnessed first hand the benefits of therapeutic riding with her son.

“I know what kind of difference it makes in people’s lives,” Campbell said.

Donna Shuesaid Freedom Hooves ran its pilot program this fall so it would have the winter to build upon and perfect the program.

Board members said the program gives students an all-around learning experiences and allows them to build self-confidence, core skills, balance, motor skills and listening skills as well as actively learn.

Currently, the program is limited to treating certain physical and mental challenges. That’s why the group is looking for funding and volunteers, so they can build their own facility with capabilities to treat anyone.

“We want and eventually will be able to work with anybody and everybody,” Campbell said.

The program is meant to help residents of Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.

Amanda Boswell, mother of participant Austin Flanders, 13, said she hopes her son learns responsibility from the program.

Connie Sue said she was happy to host the program for now.

“I was so anxious and thrilled that they would come and share it with me,” Connie Sue said. “It’s an extreme joy to be a part of seeing the benefits of the program, such as the self-confidence boost, joy, peace and learning.”

For more information, visit www.freedomhooves.org or email freedomhooves@gmail.com

Darian Warden can be reached at 875-1793 or dwarden@craigdailypress.com

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