The North Okanagan Therapeutic Riding Association (NOTRA) spring session came to an end this week, after two months of riding lessons and games for 60 children and adults with special needs.
The well-attended spring session, held at O’Keefe Ranch, was a comeback for the association. Just last year they were forced to cancel their fall session due to a lack of volunteers.
“It was a huge hit when we told them that we weren’t having the fall session,” said Dani Goldenthal, who has been the program director for NOTRA for 20 years.
Goldenthal said the horseback riding is fun and therapeutic for people with special needs, from ADHD to quadriplegic cerebral palsy.
“The movement of a horse actually simulates the gait of a person walking, so it moves their pelvis, their hips, their back, increases their core strength, builds muscles,” she said.
“For people that have intellectual disabilities … you can just imagine that they have a lot of areas of their life where they don’t have a lot of control, and here they come out and they get up on a 1,200-pound animal and they’re controlling it.
“The relationships that they build with the horse, with the volunteers, with the instructors are so positive.”
Devin Caza, a 13-year-old spring rider with special needs that include ADHD, said he also finds hanging out with the horses relaxing.
“You can just sit there and let the horse do the work,” Caza said. “I like petting them the most though.”
With the fall session set to start during the first week of September, Goldenthal said they need more volunteers to help with things like horse handling.
Volunteers are asked to commit to a two-and-a-half hour shift once per week for eight weeks. Classes are run at various times during business hours Monday through Friday.
Sicamous resident and first-time volunteer Ruth Cordonier recommended getting involved.
“They’re just so flexible,” Cordonier said, adding that she’s already looking forward to the fall 2019 session. “I’m going to miss it over the summer.”
For more information, visit the NOTRA website at notra.info/how-can-i-volunteer.