JIRDC Exceptional Equestrians

It's about abilities, not disabilities!                  

Magic is something we see every day at the Exceptional Equestrians (EE) program. Our herd of heroes, as we call our horses, provides a holistic approach to therapy and education at the Riddle Developmental Center. Through horseback riding and horse related activities, the EE program provides an innovative means of therapy and education to individuals with severe mental, physical, and emotional challenges. Where many of those individuals will not respond to traditional education and therapy sessions, they will reach out to a horse. They eagerly participate in activities that strengthen weak and stiff muscles, restore balance and coordination, and give them a sense of freedom, producing smiles and happiness as well as a newfound ease in a life of extraordinary challenges.

Youth and adults without disabilities also benefit from the EE program through riding, training, and a wide range of horse related activities. Volunteers, especially youth volunteers, are carefully trained in safety procedures, horse care, and eventually become horse leaders and side walkers who assist with therapy sessions and they are given the privilege of riding the EE horses at no charge in exchange for their volunteer work.

The EE program has recently moved to the JIRDC campus with plans for a new state of the art equestrian facility. It is specially designed for accessibility by persons of all abilities with a climate controlled multipurpose room for viewing, training, and educational resources, wheelchair accessible restrooms and tack room, stalls, and a indoor riding arena.

EE also offers special programs to selected groups according to their interest like miniature harness racing, horse camps, resident groups with special interests and needs, and trail rides. EE also works with treatment professionals to design programs as an alternative to traditional classroom settings always being aware of their motto, "It's About Abilities, Not Disabilities!"

The Exceptional Equestrians is a program of J. Iverson Riddle Developmental Center and the Riddle Institute. The EE program serves more than 140 individuals from the Center, and others throughout the community, through donations of horses, equipment, and operating expenses from individuals, corporations, and civic organizations.