Do you know that something so simple, such as horseback riding can have great benefits for your body and mind? It is a great form of exercise which has both cardiovascular and muscle conditioning benefits. Although it may seem as though the rider is not engaging in any physical exercise, an hour’s activity can burn similar calories to that of a 30-minute jog or cycle ride. Horseback riding has also been recognized as having excellent therapeutic qualities. The psychological benefits can be of equal importance to riders as the physical benefits. Simply being out and about and enjoying the great outdoors will boost your general well-being and alleviate stress.
Exceptional Equestrians (EE) in Washington recognizes the benefits of horseback riding and offers to the community the opportunity to experience them. This is a volunteer-based, not-for-profit organization that provides enjoyable, affordable horsemanship experiences for therapeutic effect, developing and stregthening mind, body and spirit. They serve more than 100 individuals a week, ages 2 and up, with a wide range of disabilities from autism to Down syndrome to ADHD. EE’s program is heavily dependent on volunteers, with more than 90 volunteers weekly.
My friend and fellow photographer Steve Frederick has been volunteering at Exceptional Equestrians for four years, so I used the opportunity to visit EE with him and see for myself the benefits of horseback riding.
Exceptional Equestrians of the Missouri Valley, Inc is excited to be in its 20th year of operation. They have been in Washington since 1994, and nearly 3 years ago they moved to their present location on 785 Yellow Finch Ln.
Meet Lindsay Mohr. She started as a volunteer in therapeutic riding nearly 18 years ago, and now she is EE's Administrative Manager. She's been an Advanced Certified Riding Instructor since 2004. Lindsay is wonderful with both the horses and their riders, and you can see that she loves her job.
This is Laura Jensen, the Program Manager. Laura has been involved with therapeutic horseback riding for more than 20 years and she is a natural. She is an amazing instructor, and she definitely knows what she is doing.
EE relies heavily on volunteers - they have 85 of them! Tasks that volunteers assist with may vary from Sidewalking (walking alongside the riders) and leading horses in lessons to filing and taking pictures. Anybody can volunteer, no prior experience with horses or disabilities is required.
This young lady has been coming to EE since she was 2. She was diagnosed with autism, but now she only has minor learning disabilities. She loves Lindsay as her teacher, and Oliver (the horse) is her new best friend.
Alyssa is simply adorable and you can tell she is looking forward to riding Oliver today!
They start off in the indoor riding arena, with some warm up exercises that include counting till 10.
Then it's time to go outside and enjoy the beautiful day. Oliver is doing great, considering the fact that he is only 4 years old. Lindsay compares him to a big toddler. Most of the horses at EE have been donated. The first thing that the staff looks at when choosing a horse is their personality. They need to like people, to enjoy attention and to be tolerant of change. Most horses have 3 or 4 different riders every day, who are lead by a couple of volunteers.
Alyssa does great on her ride, and she deserves a high ten!
You can tell that Oliver and she have bonded already. Her mom says that Alyssa loves him so much, because he doesn't listen, just like her ;-)
EE teaches responsibility, too. Their youngest rider just turned 2, and their oldest one is deaf, blind and on oxygen, but he smiles all the time and loves to ride. The therapeutic horseback riding is the only therapy tool that provides movement similar to walking, increasing muscle strength and promoting balance. It does wonders for children with developmental delays and adults with strokes.
Alyssa is a big girl! Lindsay lets her help carry Oliver's saddle, and you can tell she is beaming with pride! Exceptional Equestrians gives a chance to exceptional people to show their abilities.
Oliver deserves some treats after a job well done. EE has 9 horses and a miniature horse. Currently they are looking for some smaller horses, since they recently had to retire two. If you have a horse who loves people, but you can't take care of it anymore, Exceptional Equestrians would be the perfect home for it.
Every lesson at EE lasts approximately an hour. Here is the next client, doing some Sports Riding and getting a number of therapeutic benefits while learning basic riding skills.
Exceptional Equestrians is having their "Wine, Dine and Whinny" fundraiser in June at Röbller Vineyard & Winery. Join them for dinner, demonstrations and a silent and live auction. Call 636.390.2141 to reserve your tickets.
Last, but not least, a visit to EE won't be complete without meeting Phantom - A 10-year-old miniature horse who has been with EE since 2005. He loves his job, which includes being groomed, going for walks and visiting nursing homes.
For the first time ever, this year Exceptional Equestrians will be offering 8 weeks of summer camps. These camps will be all inclusive and open to all children. The camps will offer a variety of activities and learning experiences for children of all ages. Campers will learn about responsibility, teamwork, respect and compassion. All of EE’s instructors are certified and have extensive horsemanship experience. They are all CPR and First Aid certified. For more information, click here.
Exceptional Equestrians is located on 785 Yellow Finch Ln. in Washington, MO. They are open from morning till evening, just mornings on Saturday, closed on Wednesday and Sunday. Call the office at (636) 390-2141 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit their website here.