back in the saddle of volunteering

March 3, 2011 § 3 Comments

Long before therapeutic horseback riding programs existed, when cowboys were glorified  & horses were more a part of life, people sang about the therapeutic benefits of riding, the most famous being Gene Autry’s theme song written by Ray Whitley:
“I’m back in the saddle again
out where a friend is a friend
Where the longhorn cattle feed
On the lowly gypsum weed
I’m back in the saddle again.

Rockin’ to and fro
Back in the saddle again
I go my way
Back in the saddle again”

The expression “back in the saddle” dates back to the 1800s referring to when cowboys would return to work after injury, but over time it became synonymous with “returning to normal activities or duties”. At the Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center they take that idea a step further by using the therapeutic effects of horseback riding to help people with disabilities. As one of the oldest therapeutic riding centers in the country, they help hundreds of people reach beyond their constraints and special needs through a number of riding programs.

Two of their key programs are therapeutic riding and hippotherapy. Therapeutic riding teaches riders horsemanship which can help with physical, mental and emotional growth, improving everything from balance to social interactions. Hippotherapy is focused on improving trunk mobility & strength which improves limb function, muscle control and tone, motor development and coordination. They recently did a study with the Children’s Hospital showing the benefits of therapeutic riding with autistic children.

Today I spoke with Loraine, the Program Director, who showed me around and told me more about their facility & volunteer opportunities. They work with more than 1,000 volunteers each year that serve anywhere between 170-200 riders per week year round. She mentioned to me the thing she hears most from volunteers is how therapeutic the experience is for the volunteers themselves.

They also accept donations that are crucial to keeping the horses well cared for aside from keeping the programs running so well. It’s a worthy cause to consider supporting!

I think one of the important aspects for me this week will be to not only figure out what the right fit will be but also what I can contribute. One of the reasons I quit volunteering as much was because I worked all the time and traveled way too much to be consistent. I didn’t want to let people down. I don’t want travel to hold me back this time, so I just need to sort that part out. It’s going to be a hard decision. All of these organizations are worthwhile.

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