Foothills Equestrian Nature Center Offers Therapeutic Riding

The Foothills Equestrian Nature Center, better known as FENCE, has as part of its mission “…educational and recreational opportunities linking nature, animals, and people.” One program offered by FENCE, acronym TROT, uniquely links animals and people of all ages: Therapeutic Riding of Tryon. Therapeutic riding was developed in Europe during the early 1950s as a tool for improving the lives of individuals with physical disabilities.

In 1952, champion rider Lis Hartel competed in the Helsinki Olympics. YouTube films clearly show her difficulty standing and walking from her bout with polio. Yet, despite her challenges, she won the Silver Medal in Grand Prix Dressage. Equine and medical professionals realized that with a therapeutic program, riding was beneficial to the physically challenged. This concept was brought to the U.S. through Canada by PATH, the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International.

The concept has now been expanded to a wide range of challenges including emotional, social, PTSD etc., which benefit from interaction with horses, whether mounted or unmounted. Quoting from the FENCE website: “TROT classes are planned and taught by PATH Intl. certified instructors and are built around the individual requirements of each student. In TROT’s mounted program, typically, three volunteers – one to lead the horse, and two to serve as side walkers – assist each student to carry out the teacher’s instructions. Depending on the needs of each student, mounted classes include exercises and games designed to promote balance, strength and coordination, and develop cognitive skills such as focusing, sequencing, and understanding and following directions.

“In addition to therapeutic riding, TROT also offers an unmounted therapeutic program to individuals who, because of their disability, cannot sit astride a horse. Unmounted equine assisted therapeutic activities afford students the opportunity to experience the benefits of interaction with horses. Physical activities include grooming and leading the horses; cognitive and emotional activities include touching and caring for the horses, learning how horses communicate and relating the horse’s behavior to human behavior; and developmental activities include learning to follow directions for a variety of activities, sequencing, and learning about horses and basic horsemanship.”

For more information about TROT and FENCE, go to FENCE.org. As a Premier Accredited Center of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International, TROT follows the strict standards set by PATH Intl. for safety and effective teaching. The program is open to residents of Polk, Henderson and Rutherford counties in North Carolina, and Spartanburg and Greenville counties in South Carolina.

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