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Let SpiritHorse of MS plan your next birthday party, camp, field trip, or lesson.
With the assistance of their instructor, lessons start with the rider leading the pony or horse from the pasture gate to the barn. Our ponies and horses can be led from wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. Many of our two year-old children with disabilities lead their ponies independently. If the child is in their parents arms we place the lead rope in their hands and they lead their pony. We encourage all to participate.
The rider then assists with grooming (ie. brushing) to the ability they have and can develop. They carry their own saddle or blanket or girth, depending upon their ability at that time, and help saddle their pony or horse. We have found that this participation becomes a very important part of the lesson to our riders. Those with cognitive disabilities learn sequencing, two step task execution, following instructions, and work-reward. They also develop a stronger bond with their pony or horse. Many of our riders look forward to this element as much as they do their riding lesson. The leading, grooming, and saddling portion of the lesson usually lasts approximately 15 minutes.
Riders lead their horse to the mounting ramp and the instructor leads the pony into the ramp. At least one of the parents is required to be a sidewalker for their child. We require this because we believe parents are the world's expert on their child. They assist the rider up the ramp, where over time we work to have the rider become self-sufficient in mounting. This provides a greater sense of control and pride in being able to do most of the mount on their own.
The ridden portion of the lesson starts with a trail ride down a wooded road and trail, lead by the instructor and protected by one or two sidewalkers, depending upon their needs. As the lesson progresses and the child starts to develop balance, we provide exercises and riding development in a very small ring, in which the pony or horse is controlled by the instructor using a rope called a lunge line. Over time when the rider develops sufficient balance, we begin to have the sidewalker step aside in the ring so that the rider will develop stronger balance, and with this development, safe riding skills.
With safety methods paramount, we proceed in methods and tested steps to develop the rider's balance and horsemanship skills. It is our goal to eventually have each of our riders be independent, under controlled conditions.
The ridden portion of the lesson is designed to last 30 minutes, with shorter times for our smallest and beginning riders, and longer times for our more advanced riders. Following the ridden portion, the rider leads the horse or pony to the barn and assists in unsaddling, grooming, rewarding the pony with a carrot (this is a favorite part) and putting away the pony.
Why Choose Therapeutic Riding?
The movement of the horse or pony stimulates the rider's vestibular system (inner ear) which not only controls balance, but all voluntary movement of the body, including speech. Half way through the lesson, our students who have an under-stimulated vestibular system (one form of sensory integration dysfunction) become more active vocally and in body movement. Riders also learn vital skills such as: following instructions, focusing, task sequence, participation and self-confidence.
In eight years of operation, as the result of our research and development and the faithful application of our methods by our certified instructors, we have heard 64 children speak the first word of their lives, helped 48 children walk their first steps to reach their ponies, and seen 38 children sit up for the first time. A study by a leading medical school showed that we moved 24 severely autistic children to mild autism and one to non-autistic in just six months of intervention with our research-based, award-winning methods.
More information is available by calling our office at (865) 337-9887.
SpiritHorse Founder - Charles Fletcher
“I am the world’s richest man because I get paid in hugs and smiles, the most valuable currency that exists. I love my children and I love my job.”
In 2001, Charles I. Fletcher at the retired age of 63, combined his passion for horses and his love for children to start SpiritHorse Therapeutic Riding Center.
Charles has over fifty years of experience in training and successfully showing all types of horses in almost every discipline. He has trained and shown American Saddle (five gaited) horses, fine harness horses, Standardbred horses to sulkies, thoroughbred hunters and jumpers, and currently competes successfully in combined driving events.
|“I am leaving my ranch to SpiritHorse with the proviso that no child with a disability ever be charged a fee.”
He and his jumper, Houdini, were reserve champion for the State of Texas in the Jumper Division in 1980. Charles was Master of Foxhounds for the Hickory Creek Hunt (Dallas’ foxhunt) for ten years and recognized nationally for the success of this hunt, the quality of his hunt horses, and for his hounds’ success at shows all over the country. He is a well-known author who has published many stories on foxhunting. Charles has instructed riders for over forty years. He is a certified Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, International (PATH) instructor in both riding and carriage driving. He is a NARHA Driving Clinician and had conducted free carriage driving clinics for over 175 riding instructors from around the world. He is nationally recognized for his contributions to therapeutic driving.
In addition to teaching horseback riding to children with disabilities and horse carriage driving, he is well known for training abused horses and his success in the jumper division. Mr. Charles currently competes in combined driving competitions.
“When I wrote Charles’ story, I realized that the founder of SpiritHorse is in effect an essence of a philanthropist. A kindred spirit if I may.”
----Jacqueline Beretta, President of Texas Non Profits
Click here to read Jacqueline Beretta's featured article about Charles
We at SpiritHorse Therapeutic Riding Center are pleased to announce that Charles Fletcher, our founder and CEO, has been named a 2012 Purpose Prize Fellow – a national honor.
The Purpose Prize fellows are chosen according to their creative problem-solving skills and their entrepreneurial spirit for social change, in the latter half of life. Charles was named a fellow due to his innovative and philanthropic work in Equine Therapy. SpiritHorse Therapeutic Riding Center in Corinth, along with our SpiritHorse representatives around the nation and the world, are proud to be the realization of this man’s vision. And we are proud and gratified for this vision to be recognized and honored through the Purpose Prize. Congratulations Charles!
To read more about Charles’ award please check out http://www.encore.org/charles-fletcher or click on the badge above! To learn more about the Purpose Prize and Encore’s work, visit their main page at www.encore.org.