A day at Spirithorse Therapeutic Riding Center
A few weeks ago I was put in touch with the ladies over at Spirit Horse Vineyards and Spirithorse therapeutic riding center. I didn’t know much about the programs that the ranch was running and after speaking with Heather from Spirit Horse Vineyards, we knew we were brought together for a reason. Spirithorse specializes in therapeutic riding lessons for kids with any type of special needs. They also offer scholarship lessons to children, teens and women who are in need, completely free of charge.
Our oldest, Ari, has been riding on and off for about 5 years now. Horses have been a constant in her life. Anyone who knows her, knows this. What they may not know is that Ari also has some audio processing difficulties, making group riding lessons and typical riding lessons challenging for her.
Two weekends ago, we were invited out to the beautiful ranch in American Canyon,CA (Napa) to meet the director, Charlotte and to give the kids an introduction to the ranch and the horses. Ari was beyond excited to be around the horses and maybe even get a short ride. Charlotte and her granddaughter Treelle, met us early on a Sunday morning. She explained that Sundays were the days they did therapeutic riding lessons. As she walked us over to the stables to meet some of the horses, we could see a lesson in session in the arena. Older girls (12+) lead the horses while the instructors are teaching the lessons. These girls volunteer their time as interns to help with saddling, grooming, leading the horses. Charlotte tells me how the intern program helps these girls gain life skills and confidence by working and assistant teaching at the ranch.
After meeting the horses and hearing their stories, we took one pony out to groom him and learn some safety rules. I noticed right away how relaxed Charlotte was with the kids and the pony, in turn making the pony and us really relaxed too. The kids brushed him and saddled him up, before he went off for a lesson with another child. We all walked over to the petting zoo in a smaller fenced pen near a big grassy green pasture. In the petting zoo there was a donkey, a mini pony, a lamb and a goat. The kids were allowed to go right in and pet all the animals. The donkey had a fun personality and was very playful, trying to get our attention with his yee haw. The rest of the animals were very sweet, letting us pet and brush them. They even put a harness and lead rope on the pony and the kids led him around the pen a few times. Looking out into the pasture there were two beautiful horses enjoying a snack and the sunny day. To the left of the petting zoo is a newly planted veggie garden. Charlotte said she hoped to use the space for their day camps and home school program and teach the kids some basic gardening skills and education on healthy food.
Once all the horses were finished with lessons, Charlotte held back Hobee, a rescue race horse. She told the kids they could each ride him for a few rounds in the big arena. They were so excited! I watched as the kids took their turns riding around with Charlotte leading. There is something about the way Charlotte teaches riding that is very special. She explains everything as its happening and is patient with the kids when they need more clarification. She listens to their questions and is intuitive to their feelings and how to help if needed. Everyone is at ease, including the horses.
We all left the ranch that day with big smiles and full hearts. Bryan and I, because we know we have a place to bring Ari to get the riding instruction she needs. The kids, because the ranch is a magical place to run around, get dirty and make a few new animal friends.