Friday, October 12, 2012

Feature Friday -"Ride On St Louis"

Imagine a place of celebration. It’s a very special place where they celebrate remarkable children every day. And they call them, Rising Riders. It takes determination to qualify as a Rising Rider. Determination to hold their head up, sit upright, strive for balance and sometimes even breathe. Or smile. Ride On St. Louis Inc. Equine Assisted Activities Therapy, is that place of celebration where children with a wide range of physical, cognitive and/or emotional challenges can experience the loving interaction between horse, student and therapist to build self confidence and master new skills.

 Located near Imperial, MO, Ride On St. Lois (ROSL) was founded by Marita Wassman in 1998 after she'd been approached by an occupational therapist who had been organizing sports for children with special needs. Since a riding program in their area was in demand Marita set out to form the organization with 2 horses and 8 students. There has been a waiting list every year thereafter. Today there are 8 horses helping children smile at ROSL. A staff of 10 runs the program, of those, 3 are certified instructors, 1 physical therapist, 1 special education teacher. There is also 1 Registered Nurse. On a weekly basis at least 30 volunteers support the program. To date more than 200 children have come to this place of celebration and smiles to learn to be, Rising Riders.

ROSL is Premier Accredited by Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International, member of the Equine Facilitated Mental Health Association (EFMHA) and member of the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA).

At ROSL, 200 plus volunteers, and carefully selected therapy horses, donate over 8,000 hours of volunteer service a year. These volunteers run the daily operations of maintenance, horse care and sidewalking, which directly assist riders during the lessons. Jackie Greer is one of those volunteers. 

Jackie started volunteering for ROSL in 2009. "I was looking for somewhere my son and I could volunteer together, ROSL was a perfect fit as they are 10 minutes from our house and I love horses, and helping people realize their dreams.  We have 3 horses of our own and I know personally the therapeutic benefits you can receive just from being with them." Jackie said. Jackie is also very involved in fund raising and has helped organize ACTHA trail rides each of the past 3 years.

Rachel is a Rising Rider … I'd like to share her thoughts from a paper she wrote … "As a person with autism, I feel I do not have much control, but when I am on top of a big, strong horse I feel that I have more control of my world. Horses are like autistic people because they cannot talk. Even though a horse cannot talk they are graceful and strong. When I am riding a horse I feel that I am strong and graceful. The confidence that I feel when I ride gives me the freedom I wish I had all the time. As I ride the horse I feel very independent. For once I feel that I can accomplish something without anyone’s help. When we run I try to imagine never having autism."

ROSL operates in a very holistic manner focusing on emotional and physical improvements as well as learning disabilities. Please have a look at ROSL on their website  to meet the horses and children, and put a smile on your face.

Have a fun day and please share this blog with your friends. Let's help them help. God Bless ~ Dutch

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A truly exceptional bird watching trail ride!

The early sun managed to burn through the damp chill that had cloaked the morning. Brilliant shimmering rays illuminated the canopy of changing leaves. Tulip Poplars boasting yellow, Oaks sporting russet, and the stunning reds of Dogwoods, Virginia Creeper and Maple. There's still plenty of green in the backdrop as we are still in the early days of autumn, but color was everywhere. As we gaited down the trail the smell of wet leaves added seasoning to their beauty.

Light shafts stabbed through the tree tops highlighting red clay, moss and puddles. Shadows dancing on the puddles, and the occasional frog splashing in them, caused Kessy to take a few abrupt sidesteps, keeping my attention focused on my seat, as well as the beauty of the morning.

Down the trail we glided. It was truly an exceptional bird watching trail ride. Even as we rode up our escarpment trail toward the logging road, Saturday, Kessy and I were greeted by a pair of Cardinals happily bouncing about in the underbrush. Just a short way along the logging road a Pilliated Woodpecker never bothered to acknowledge us as he ripped and tore at a rotting old trunk.

As we turned away from the logging road and onto the trail I've christened, "Little Bear Trail" because once while crossing the short bridge there a little black bear crawled out from under it, a small flock of Chickadees were busy working over the seed pods on spent Jo Pye Weed stalks. A few Goldfinches added some color to the scene, even though their shiny yellow had already been traded in for the drab olive green of winter plumage.

We paused to watch a Nuthatch scamper up and down a mighty Oak's trunk. Tiny blue, black and white Nuthatches are one of my favorite birds. They are always so very happy as they hurry and call, "Yunk, Yunk, Yunk." From higher up in that same oak a Blue Jay shrilly told Kessy, Saturday and me to move on. So we did.

The next sighting still fits in the bird watching theme, because I've always said whatever you see while bird watching is part of the day's journey, be it birds, leaves, flowers, animals or turtles. Yup, turtles. Kessy stopped to have a look at the brush along the trail's edge and she pointed out a fine looking brown and yellow box turtle, head high as he waddled along. He had a lot of yellow on his shell, and the brightest red eyes. We might still be watching him but for the flock of turkeys who decided to cross the trail about 50 feet ahead of us, which distracted Kessy from here turtle watch, and off we went to investigate the turkeys, who of course disappeared as quickly as they had jumped into the scene.

But we still weren't done! As we rounded the bend, a covey of quail exploded from the thicket. Kessy did her best to impersonate the quails' upward leap … which was fun ... Sort of.

One last treat awaited us. A magnificent Red Admiral butterfly landed on a tree trunk, in a bright sun spot, just to my right and at my eye level only inches from us. He sat with wings unfurled taking in the sun. I sat a few seconds and admired him.

I hope you enjoyed our little jaunt through up the trail. It is on rides like this I wish all my friends could go with us. So much beauty to see.

Have a wonderful day & God Bless! ~ Dutch

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Roosters crowed in the dark.

Roosters crowed in the dark. Tigger blinked a protest at the sudden brightness of the light being turned on. A distant a train whistle floated in the air. Saturday could hardly keep his eyes open. The first of the Guinea chickens to wake flew from the chicken house. Ravishin, Robbie said when we turn the clocks back to Eastern Standard Time it'll be light again at 6:30, but for now, most mornings Kessy and the Coffee Clutch gang isn't meeting until after 7:00. And it's still dark then!

Guinea chickens in the chicken house could be a sign of bad, or cold, weather coming. They like to roost in trees most of the time, but will gather with the Banties when it's cold, snowy and sometimes in bad rain storms. I noticed last evening they were going in and thought about the past few cold mornings, but the weather forecast is for the 70s to return for the next week. I chuckled when I thought they must have not heard that. Sure enough all 5 Guineas slept in last night.

We haven't seen a Hummingbird in a few days either. We do keep a few feeders up until well into November as we will often get a stray, late traveler stop in to refuel on its trip south. The latest Hummingbird since we've moved here to Appomattox was November 15. So if you're feeding hummers don't be in too big a hurry to take down your feeders. It is about a week early, though, for them to be gone. Another sign?

I wonder how soon the Juncos will arrive. The little slate gray birds who nest much farther north but winter in the northern US. You might know them as snowbirds. I heard on the news yesterday that at least one Almanac was predicting a lot of snow and bad weather for the Mid-Atlantic States.  So if they heard that too, well, they could show up any day.

The Phoebies flitted about in twos and threes, snapping their beaks and calling, "Phoebeee … Phoebeeee."  Are they gathering to head south?

Kessy, Saturday and the chickens fed, I settled into to my chair, poured a cup of coffee from the thermos and thanked God for a beautiful morning. I do that every morning, no matter the weather. With a sweet wife, great daughter and son-in-law, darling grandbabies, friends like you who join us here, distant train whistles, roosters crowing, birds singing , great pets and horse who loves our coffee clutch, every morning IS indeed a beautiful morning.

As Kessy tugged and munched her hay, I noticed she had a respectable start on a thick winter coat. Are we in for a lot of "snowy" beautiful mornings this winter? Oh my.

Have a beautiful day! ~ Dutch

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How much Therapy does a Therapy Horse (or any horse) need

Howdy Folks,

How fast does a horse get out of shape? How much Therapy does a Therapy Horse (or any horse) need? Does anyone really know? Is every horse and situation different? … Yesterday I spent the morning at Sprouse's Corner Farm doing Therapy for Therapy Horses exercises as I've been doing most Monday's this year. You may remember when I wrote about Donnie & Petey before and their progress with the exercises.

There are several other Therapy Horses at Sprouse's corner and most recently I've been working them. Donnie and Petey had progressed to the point with improved attitude and softer stride that LaRue, the owner, had wanted to work on a few other horses, including a recent rescue. And along the way I missed a few weeks, so it has been about 7 weeks since I've worked with Donnie and Petey.

When I speak of improved attitude, both Donnie and Petey are very polite, excellent lesson horses. Petey is only 3 and his work load is light, perhaps a lesson a week, we were doing therapy for him because when LaRue rescued him he was a physical and mental wreck, a sad story. In Donnie's case he is her best Lesson and Therapy horse averaging 3 to 5 lessons a day, 3 or 4 days a week.

Donnie had responded so well to the Therapy for Therapy Horses exercises that LaRue had commented the children could ride without hanging on the reins, which they often do when looking for their own balance. This uncertainty in the rider is often caused by a horse heavy on the forehand who hurries and takes uneven, short strides. About 3 weeks into his own therapy Donnie was even more attentive and floating so smoothly in stride that the children found new confidence and were content to ride on a loose rein.

Petey had learned to stand and walk off his forehand, but he had other issues too. He held himself inverted and had a lot of pain in his sacral area, and was weak in his hind end, and fidgeted and nipped a lot.

Yesterday we were working with a new volunteer, spreading the word of therapy exercises, and LaRue wanted me to see Donnie and Petey again. She was surprised at how they had regressed in the past few weeks. When I started with them yesterday, I was too. Donnie was tight all over, especially in his neck and shoulders, on the forehand and had trouble focusing. Petey, even though he is on very light duty, was sore in his sacral, on his forehand, lost awareness in his hind end, did not want to focus and was nipping  again.

So it only took a little over a month to see these changes go backward. The good news is by the end of today's session they were both well on their way back to healthy, happy minds and bodies. So while it would seem horses may lose their posture and condition quickly, after the horse is familiar with the Therapy exercises they can recover quickly, too.

How much Therapy do they need? There are a few simple things such as Belly/Back lift and Rock Back and TTOUCH along their back that I think you can and should do daily, certainly every time you tack up, and the others after you've made progress, every week or two seems to be enough.  That's what I do with Kessy.

Have a perfect day!
And Gitty Up ~ Dutch

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fall Rain & Wet Chickens

Rain pounded the tin roof with a ferocity that set up rumble through the barn that only an earthquake could match. I'd just sat down and poured my first cup of steaming black coffee. Kessy was enjoying her hay, Saturday snuggled tight against the tired old lawn chair that serves as my perch each morning as Kessy, me and the gang enjoy Coffee Clutch. Tigger and Miss Kitty had stayed in the house. I'd needed to hurry a bit through the morning chores, the thick clouds offering plenty of warning the dumping would soon commence.

And dump those dark clouds did when they decided it was time to unload! Buckets of driving rain slammed into the tin with a thud that echoed into the woods. Kessy snorted and spun to look outside, Saturday wiggled under my chair. A dozen soggy chickens raced single file into the barn. Clucking, squeaking and shaking water soaked wings they dashed between Kessy's legs and by my chair then huddled in corners to complain and preen. Water flew in a dozen little clouds as they shook themselves dry. Saturday watched in terror, Kessy never noticed.

It was the first morning this fall cool enough to raise steam off my coffee. It was the first morning we had no hummers at the feeder at the barn, but we did see some later in the day when the clouds parted. It was the first morning cool enough to see Kessy's breath, too.

The rain continued to pound the roof, more chickens found their way to the barn to huddle in the hay room, on the half wall and the picnic table. Saturday found his nerve and crawled out from under my chair. The temperature continued to drop and too soon I had to give up on Coffee Clutch and retreat to the house for my standard Sunday morning breakfast of Ravishin' Robbie's, melt-in-your-mouth waffles, swimming in butter and pure Maple syrup ... Robbie still uses her mother's 60's vintage waffle iron, cloth wrapped cord and all.

It did warm up a little in the afternoon, all the way to 50, and we snuck out for a short ride. A bit muddy, wet and chilly, but by golly the leaves are beginning to show their fall colors already. After I warmed up I was able to rejoin Kessy and the gang in the barn to write for about half an hour. I did more thinking than writing ... No finer place in the world to write, or think, than in the barn. And as long as I'm there Kessy will stay with me. Often she'll lie down and nap. Saturday stays too. The chickens, I don't think really care.

Well, I'm off to Sprouses Corner ranch today. Have a brand new horse and volunteer to introduce to "Therapy For Therapy Horses."

Have a perfect Monday and God Bless!! ~ Dutch