Special Education students from Middletown Area School District were given a very special opportunity this Fall. Students participated in therapeutic riding at the Capital Area Therapeutic Riding Association (CATRA) in Grantville, PA. CATRA gives individuals with physical, emotional and/or developmental disabilities the experience of horseback riding through an individualized training program.
Therapeutic riding improves balance, strengthens trunk and leg muscles, and increases coordination and motor skills. Riding also develops confidence and self-worth by giving participants the opportunity to participate in an athletic activity. Children who spends the majority of their days in a wheelchair, always looking up to those around them, suddenly have a whole new vantage point of their world. Visual obstacles are removed and they are instantly in an environment of fresh air, sunshine, cool breezes and unrestraint. The experience also improves social skills as they interact with CATRA volunteers and develop trust and friendships with their horse and handlers.
Therapeutic riding isn’t just about mounting a horse and enjoying a relaxing ride. As seen below, students had to participate in various activities while astride their horse. They identified different parts of the horse’s body by following the instructor’s cues. They did sit-ups while their horse walked the arena. Students laid down on their backs and on their bellies and even rode backwards! Some students participated in a game of grabbing tennis balls off of poles and dropping them into the colored bucket of their choice. They had to identify the color and the number located at the bucket. They gave their horses commands to walk and stop. And giggles filled the barn after giving the command “Trot!”
CATRA has so much more than just horses. Students observed kittens, dogs, miniature horses, donkeys, goats, rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks and a pot-bellied pig. There was so much to see and interact with and the students lit up with excitement at each new experience. The gleam in their eyes and the joy on their faces proved that their time at CATRA was a huge hit.
CATRA is run predominantly by volunteers. Volunteers care for the animals, maintain the property, and assist with riding classes. To find out how you can volunteer or participate at CATRA, you can visit their website here.
I cannot walk or run or play
A game of tennis every day
I cannot dance or ride a bike
I’ll never know what skating is like
I have no soccer boots or ball
They are no use to me at all
I’ll never ski the waves or snow
So many thrills I’ll never know
I’ll never sail the wind or surf
Or chase a ball across the turf
Nor climb the snow-capped peaks above
So many things I’ll never love
But I CAN ride through forest rails
To see the fox and rabbit tails
And watch the geese and ducks take flight
While leaping stags and deer take fright
And I CAN follow mountain tracks
Past climbers weighted down with packs
To trace a river to its source
Astride the broad back of a horse
Yes, I enjoy the “Sport of Kings”
When carried high my feet take wings
To fly me on a pleasure course
For I CAN mount and ride a horse
John A. Davis