Local Volunteers Complete Intensive Training

Heroes on Horseback, an equine-assisted Therapeutic Riding Program for special needs children and adults, completed its most recent volunteer training session in January, adding 10 new volunteers to its ranks. At least 80 of the program’s current volunteers subsequently attended a series of position certification classes in preparation for their first session at their new facility. 

Heroes on Horseback is a PATH, Intl. (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) premier accredited therapeutic riding center, with six certified instructors who have voluntarily invested hundreds of hours in achieving and maintaining their certifications. The instructors design weekly riding lessons that combine horseback riding skills (mounted balance, directional coordination, communication with the horse), with activities that challenge the student’s written, verbal and mathematical comprehension, problem solving and overall mental and physical capabilities. According to Laura Kinsey, Equestrian Director, “being certified and attending regular training are requirements of PATH that ensure we demonstrate a standard of knowledge, skill, and accountability to maintain a set of standards in the field of equine-assisted activities and therapies to provide safe and effective services.”

Heroes on Horseback is almost entirely staffed by volunteers, so recruiting new volunteers and retaining experienced volunteers is an endless challenge.  Volunteer Coordinator, Nancy MacKenzie, stated, “We anticipate about 20% of volunteer turnover for each session, so recruiting and training are ongoing.  Participating in a therapeutic riding program is not only hard work, but it can also be emotionally draining, so it’s not for everyone.”  For some volunteers, breaks between sessions may be enough to recharge their emotional and physical batteries, and many of them return, session after session, year after year.  Those long-term volunteers are the backbone and lifeblood of the organization.    “I always tell volunteers that whatever time they can contribute is greatly appreciated and that they will get much more back than they are ever asked to give,” said MacKenzie.

Heroes on Horseback is a non-profit organization with the mission of enriching its community and the lives of individuals with special needs by providing equine assisted activities and therapy in an effective, compassionate environment. The organization is in its sixteenth year of operation, and is the equine therapy host program for Region 8 Special Olympics and Beaufort and Jasper county school district special education classes. The program also serves disabled veterans and other children and adults with special needs.

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Robert Lee, Executive Director at 843.757.5607 or email at bob@heroesonhorseback.org.

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