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November 2019

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May 1, 2018

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October 3, 2017

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August 14, 2017


February 16, 2016

http://www.onlinechester.com/content/healers-hooves-therapeutic-riding-center-can-heal-body-and-mind#.VsVG6ciDTyN.gmail Courtesy of Brian Garner, The News & Reporter, Chester S.C.

Healers with hooves:

Therapeutic riding center can heal body and mind

Lutz Foundation grantee seeks more Chester riders



A therapeutic riding center tucked away in Clover is healing the body, mind and spirit of adults and children with all kinds of special needs, and they’re doing it with horses. Call them healers with hooves.

The RideAbility Therapeutic Riding Center teaches horseback riding and horse care to a wide variety of riders with disabilities and health issues such as autism, spinal chord injury or paralysis due to a traumatic auto accident and veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The center has been open for three years.

The center is a recent recipient of a grant from the Herbert and Anna Lutz Foundation.

The RideAbility Center director and founder is Dr. Wendy Schonfeld, who is a chiropractor and an Advanced Coach for Special Olympics. She said the center learned about the Lutz Foundation grants from one of the relatives of one of the board of directors of the center. That person suggested Schonfeld contact the Lutz Foundation.

“And they came out here and they were so happy to be a part of the program,” Schonfeld said.

The grant will go to support the center’s veteran’s program, which is called Equine Services for Heroes, to allow the center to work with disabled vets on riding skills, horsemanship skills and mounted and unmounted lessons.

RideAbility board member Natalie Terrio explained the purpose of the center.

“We work with special needs and adults, and that encompasses many areas, including learning disabilities, physical challenges and psychological challenges (we have a veteran’s program here).

“We’ve had troubled teenagers who have come out here and they work with the horses,” Terrio said.

The center recently purchased a hydraulic lift, so people who are confined to wheelchairs can be safely lifted up onto a horse for riding lessons.

Riding horses and caring for them and just being around them can benefit a lot of people who are physically challenged, Terrio said.

“The movement of the horses, for people who are physically challenged, basically imitates the way a person would move with a normal gait. It helps people who might have muscles that are starting to atrophy, for example our riders who might have MS, it helps them to relax their muscles, let their legs stretch down, and give them better mobility when they’re on the ground.

“Horses are prey animals, as opposed to predator animals, so they can feel every emotion you have.

“For example with Barry, one of our veterans, if he’s feeling stressed out, the horse can tell he’s like that, and there’s sort of a nurturing effect that happens when he starts caring for the horse,” Terrio said.

The RideAbility brochure states the benefits of horseback riding are both mental and physical. Riding horses at the RideAbility center allows the riders to build confidence and self esteem, develop coordination and balance, get a sense of accomplishment and freedom of movement and it gets them outdoors.

The horses that work with the clients in the program have to be carefully chosen and trained.

Terrio said, “The horses have to have a certain mindset to be accepted in the program in the first place. The horses that are accepted are put through a two to three month trial and if they’re accepted in the program, they go through a three or four month training. They’re trained right here on the property and exposed to tarps flying, adults and children who are unbalanced, and screaming and yelling and flailing their arms, we have a sensory area where the trainer is banging a xylophone, there are horseshoes that can hit and make noise, there are basketballs being thrown and golf balls going down a gutter. The horses have to be able to put up with all that noise and the sudden movement,” said Terrio.

The center also works with an orphanage in the area. “That gives the kids a sense of accomplishment and happiness and the ability to do things they would never have had the opportunity to do,” she said.

The center has nine horses – one of them is 33-years-old and doesn’t do riding lessons anymore but instead is used in un-mounted lessons, said Schonfeld.

“We don’t ride him anymore. He works with the vet program and he works with children. A lot of the children are learning how to groom a horse and feed and care for them. We don’t do just riding lessons we teach them how to care for the horse as well,”  said Schonfeld.

“If you’re going to be here riding and you’re capable and you have physical and cognitive abilities, it’s important to learn horse care. It’s important to think that you’re not just coming here to ride, but that you learn it takes tender loving care as you care for the animals, feed them and groom them. It will also take an adult or child that has autism or ADHD or focusing issues, or attention problems and it will teach them how to complete a task. If it’s raining here and we can’t teach riding lessons, we still teach un-mounted lessons, because that’s a great opportunity to teach the grooming and the feeding and the care for a horse,” said Schonfeld.

“So with almost every riding lesson, there’s grooming that goes with it and petting and touching the horse, smelling the horse, things like that,” she said.

Riders with ability

Horseback rider Patty Scott from Lake Wylie developed MS as an adult. She has been riding with the center for a few years.

“When Patty first came to us, her legs were really weak and unstable; we actually had to hold on to her to keep her balanced on the horse. She had a leader with the horse, and one person on each side of her to keep her from falling down off the horse.

“As you can see now, she’s totally independent out here,  riding her horse. She’s strong and very confident,” said Schonfeld.

Scott, who is a very active 52-years-old,  said she grew up riding horses and the MS developed when she was an adult.

“She wanted to start riding again, and her legs didn’t work as well as they had in the past, and she needed to start from square one,” Schonfeld said.

“We did, and now she’s back to riding again. She does barrel riding, she does pole bending, trail riding and she recently visited the Grand Canyon and was able to take the trail ride there,” Schonfeld said.

“It’s nice to have four other legs,” Scott laughs.

Schonfeld said in addition to the physical toning and strengthening that happens when Scott is on the horse, she gets an emotional boost as well.

“There’s no limitations when she’s riding,” Schonfeld said.

March 3, 2015


Courtesy of WTVI PBS Charlotte - http://www.wtvi.org/

April 10, 2014


September 16, 2013

Rideability Therapeutic Riding Center serves as an additional resource for families with special needs children. Check out Jakey's progress on Rising!


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