Parents of children with disabilities can now afford to give their children exercise and therapy within the county. Susie Q. Jordan of Derby’s Double Star Farm offers free therapeutic pony rides to children with disabilities.
Children that need therapy are sometimes frightened of clinical settings and allowing them to ride horses is fun for them. They get to be outside and often the incentive of being able to ride a horse allows a therapist to be able to ask a child to push themselves harder, according to the North Carolina Therapeutic Riding Center.
“I can afford to give disabled children free therapeutic rides because I offer the pony rides for children and children’s parties,” says Jordan.
She built her own pony carousel when she couldn’t afford the equipment.
“If you don’t have a job, and you can’t find one, you have to make one,” she said. She grooms dogs and makes crafts including gourd birdhouses, sculptures of birds, quilts and paintings. She also teaches English as a second language. She says she does whatever she can to feed her family.
According to the North Carolina Therapeutic Riding Center, riding horses can help increase physical abilities by working and toning muscles, can improve posture and coordination, can stimulate cognitive abilities such as language structure, and help encourage positive behavior.
As a child, Jordan had conditions that made it difficult for her to walk comfortably.
“My mother pushed me to ride, and I know why she did it. She did it so I could grow to be able-bodied. I was in a wheelchair, and by 12-years-old I could lift and throw 80-pound hay bails,” she said.
“The movement of the horse is so dynamic. There’s more to it than riding around the ring,” said Audrey Ganitopoulos, NCTRC program director.
According to Ganitopoulos, when a human is seated on the back of a horse that is walking, the motion of the horse’s pelvis mirrors the human pelvis, and moves the human pelvis as though it is walking.
She says horses mirror us in other ways, too.
“If you are frightened, the horse will be alarmed. If you are trying to work cooperatively, the horse will try to do the same. Horses realize things about us before we do, and they have the ability to read us more than we can understand.”
Jordan, who used to be a nurse, had a work-related injury that prevented her from lifting patients, which left her without a job. Again, she experienced numbness in her legs that prevented her from walking comfortably for the second time in her life.
“I knew I had to keep riding,” she says as she explains how she rehabilitated herself to be able-bodied again. “Being disabled made me angry - I have too much work to do.”
Jordan explains, “I teach kids with disabilities to ride for free because my mother paid for me to ride when I was little, and she struggled. I want to give that gift to the children.”
“It’s more than just a pony ride,” said Ganitopoulos. She explained that children with mental disabilities that have difficulty focusing or forming social relationships have lots to gain from riding.
“The rhythm of the horse walking helps them organize their minds; the movement can ground distracted children,” she said. “Once they can ride, other skills can be layered on.”
Jordan buys ponies and miniature horses that aren’t wanted. She works with Derby horse trainer Jose Garcia to rehabilitate them so they are safe to ride.
“Some of these horses have never been ridden, some have been abused and neglected. Jose has unlimited patience for them,” Jordan said.
She offers what she calls ‘family safe’ pony rides that last for 30 to 45 minutes, at a cost of $15 for children and $25 for adults. She also offers adult rides through the gamelands of Richmond County for $40.
To get in touch with the North Carolina Therapeutic Riding Center visit them online at www.nctrcriders.org or call them at 919-304-1009.
For more information on riding lessons, children’s pony rides or free therapeutic riding contact Jordan at 910-638-1822.
Dawn Kurry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 997-3111 ext. 15.