Indian Springs hosts therapeutic riding conference

More than 100 people from across the South gathered at Indian Springs School Aug. 6 to learn from an established therapeutic horseback-riding center in Shelby County.

Special Equestrians Inc. hosted the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association region five conference from Aug. 6 through Aug. 8.

Region five consists of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Puerto Rico.

Conference attendees ranged from program directors, instructors, volunteers and those just starting new centers, all with the same goal of helping those with disabilities find freedom through riding horses.

The purpose of the conference is to offer professional development training, said Dorrie Fuchs, assistant director of Special Equestrians.

Administrative session topics included preparing for audits, obtaining insurance, marketing and human resources.

Kathleen Claybrook, executive director of Special Equestrians, taught a session on how to start a successful riding center and how to become NARHA certified.

Special Equestrians is one of only four NARHA premier accredited centers in the state, Fuchs said. It has been in operation since 1986, making it one of the more established centers in the region.

This is the third time they have been asked to host the region-wide annual conference.

Leslie Jones attended the conference to learn from well-established riding centers like Special Equestrians, she said.

“I’m hoping to increase my knowledge in administrative areas,” she said. “That’s what my center needs.”

Other session topics included in the conference were behavior management techniques, how to prepare a horse for a show, teaching low-functioning riders and strategies for teaching the hearing and vision impaired.

These topics appealed to riding instructor Gloria Risko from Rainbow Riding in Cleveland, Tenn. She said she’s eager to learn new techniques she can use while teaching at her center.

“I want my kids to think they can do anything,” she said.

Therapeutic riding gives many benefits to those with disabilities, Fuchs said. Physically it can help stimulate dormant nerves and muscles, increase strength and stimulate vocal chords. The warmth from the horse’s body helps with relaxation, reducing rigidity and spasticity.

For more information on therapeutic riding or Special Equestrians, Inc., visit Specialequest.org.