Navigating Life as we Know It

Getting to know Therapeutic Riding a little better

January 20, 2021 Envision Media Group Season 1 Episode 18
Navigating Life as we Know It
Getting to know Therapeutic Riding a little better
Chapters
Navigating Life as we Know It
Getting to know Therapeutic Riding a little better
Jan 20, 2021 Season 1 Episode 18
Envision Media Group

Therapeutic Riding can be incredibly helpful for many individuals, but we've always wanted to know more about why horseback riding can be so helpful. Thankfully we have a riding center here in West Michigan that was more than willing to sit down and chat with us.

Take a look at our friends at RENEW!

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/NLAWKI)

Show Notes Transcript

Therapeutic Riding can be incredibly helpful for many individuals, but we've always wanted to know more about why horseback riding can be so helpful. Thankfully we have a riding center here in West Michigan that was more than willing to sit down and chat with us.

Take a look at our friends at RENEW!

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/NLAWKI)

Steve:

Hi, Steve here. The term therapeutic writing could mean many different things to different people. To some it might involve a motorcycle. To others, it could be a bicycle tour. For me. therapeutic writing involves cruising around Maui, and the convertible, my wife and I rented for a trip to Hawaii many years ago. Okay, where was I? Oh, yeah. For the purpose of today's conversation though therapeutic writing involves people riding horses. I visited with Melissa Connor, the executive director of renew therapeutic Writing Center in Holland, Michigan to learn more about the benefits of and the differences between hypnotherapy, therapeutic writing at quiet assisted learning and equine assisted psychotherapy. I learned a great deal from Alyssa about horses and how they can provide amazing therapeutic value to humans facing challenges with physical, psychological, cognitive and mental health issues. We hope you'll enjoy this conversation and considered the potential benefits of therapeutic writing for yourself or a loved one living with disability. Before we begin, I want to note this interview was recorded in May of 2020. During our conversation, Melissa mentions that Renu therapeutic writing is shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic and awaiting the okay to reopen. I'm happy to say the Renu is open for business with appropriate precautions involving masks and social distancing to protect everyone from the spread of COVID-19. Now let's join our conversation with Melissa Cotter. This is navigating life as we know it and I'm your host Steve Johnson. Today our guest is Melissa Connor, the executive director of Renu therapeutic Writing Center in Holland, Michigan. Melissa, welcome to navigating life as we know it.

Melissa Connor:

Thank you, Steve. It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Steve:

Well, you're very welcome. And I thank you for participating. My son Liam has been a writer yet renew, we understand that you have a new location. Now. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

Melissa Connor:

Yes, we are very excited as we moved to a new location, it is on the east side of Holland. So it is located at 5080 146th Avenue. It is about one mile east of Waverly, which is right where the LG Chem plant was put in a few years ago. So we are there we have a 20 acre beautiful property and we just completed a new riding arena, the riding arena is 80 by 215. And it is about five times the size of the leased facility we had been operating out of previously. So we're really excited when we are able to open again after the current crisis. Hopefully we'll be able to lessen some restrictions and get operating will probably opening in stages so that we can do that safely with some precautionary measures in place in light of COVID. But our goal and building this new facility is really to be able to serve anyone in our area or the surrounding area that can benefit from the services we provide.

Steve:

That's an indoor arena correct?

Unknown:

Correct. It is indoor and it is heated and we have included some viewing spaces in the arena. So we have places for teachers, parents and guests to observe the sessions happening. It is connected to the barn where the horse stalls are and so very close to our paddock area and pasture areas where the horses live outside. So it's great we were trying to think being in Michigan that we needed a year round facility that was ADA accessible and really convenient to be able to serve the populations that

Steve:

we serve and for those listening who aren't from Michigan you have to understand it could snow in June here and it could be at in January so that's why we like to have a facility like that but um good days the horses would still right outside,

Unknown:

right on on good days. In usually the summer months and the warmer months we will plan to be outside we have not yet been able to complete our outdoor arena which would be a fenced in space outside where we could ride but we can certainly trail ride around the beautiful property it has a creek going through the middle of it. It is a little bit hilly, which is nice just to provide some incline and decline spaces to ride outside. So we're excited about that as well.

Steve:

Well that sounds great. I haven't been out there yet to see it. But I'm looking forward to that visit. And looking up the different types of horse therapies. It can be a little bit confusing and I'm hoping you can kind of bring some perspective to this. My son actually started horseback Reading therapy and Arizona about 15 years ago, and that's when I first came across the word Hippotherapy. And no hippos were injured in the Actually, I was really surprised that there was not a hippo there. When we went the first time, I understand the word Hippo is actually horse in Greek. Correct.

Unknown:

Okay. Yeah. Yes, you are correct.

Steve:

So it is horse therapy. And there's therapeutic riding, horseback riding or therapeutic horsemanship, in Hippotherapy, and then I see equine assisted learning and equine assisted psychotherapy. So there's many things that can be accomplished with a Horace, could you kind of give some distinction between these?

Unknown:

Yes, I would be happy to. And you are not alone in the confusion. But it is. It is a matter of terminology. But it also all of what you just described all of those different services. And I'll go through and talk a little bit about each one, a horse is involved for a therapeutic intervention with a person, a child or an adult, or maybe a group of children or a group of adult or a family unit who are going through some kind of challenge for rehabilitation or seeking some some therapeutic value or improvement in their daily life. So whether they have a diagnosis that is physical, cognitive, mental health or result of a trauma, grief or loss, it could be anything there is all of these things that you described, or how we we intervene, partnering with horses. So I'll start with Hippotherapy since you brought that one up, initially, and that essentially does mean therapy with a horse. So therapy and the word therapy, traditionally, in this country in the United States, is provided by somebody holding a license to practice a medical service. So that would be in this case, a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or a speech or language pathologist, and they would provide this intervention and actually provide the PT session, OT session or speech therapy session with the horse, whether that is with the client being on horseback or working with the horse on the ground. So that is where the Hippotherapy comes from. So instead of having a goal, like learning to ride a horse, the goal of the hypnotherapy session would be to increase the range of motion in the upper extremities by 10%. So they would have something like that where it is a specific therapy goal connected to the service being provided, whether it's physical, occupational, or speech. So that is what that's where Hippotherapy falls. And in that sense, in a hypnotherapy session, the horse is the therapeutic instrument, helping the client to achieve the stated therapeutic goal or therapy goal and the therapist. That's the goal. So there's usually a team of people in a hypnotherapy session, there would be some volunteers assisting the client with the horse, and then the therapist would lead that session at this time, and we can talk about this too. But at our center at renew, we have plans to begin offering this type of service, but we have not offered it yet in partnership with a licensed therapist. So that's the first category. The second one then is therapeutic horseback riding or therapeutic riding. And that is where a credentialed therapeutic riding instructor teaches the session leads the session with a team of volunteers, a horse trained for this type of intervention and the client or the participant like your son, Liam who would come for his lesson, and we provide the safety measures and for him to ride safely with a goal being led by the therapeutic riding instructor of learning to influence the horse. So as a therapeutic riding instructor, we look at the what the students challenges are. And we put together a plan where every lesson the participant would learn to influence the horse, whether that is to squeeze their leg to say walk on or to touch to get the horse to move or to hold a rein to pull to the right or to the left to get the horse to turn and then our students progress as far as they are able to have some progress to the point of being independent. And what happens there is the therapeutic benefit come alongside the therapeutic riding lesson where the core might get strengthened, or the lower extremities might get strengthened or the participant grows in confidence or decision making ability or safety awareness while developing a relationship with their horse. But as most therapeutic riding instructors are not therapists themselves, they are focused on teaching the teaching of skills or the education side of learning horsemanship, so that's the second category and then the third category you mentioned equine assisted learning. And that is a category where we look at life skills which could be taught to any individuals and I, we have recently provided this type of service to children from the Boys and Girls Club where they were learning appropriate social skills or groups social interaction. So then we would do exercises where they were involving the horse, but with the goal of improving their communication skills, and the horses were able to give them instant feedback and how well they were accomplishing their goal of having clear communication skills. So we would choose a life skill, sometimes looking at things like the 12 habits of the mind, but which would be confidence, clear communication, appropriate social interaction, things of that nature, where we then partner with the horses to try to learn these types of skills. So that can be really powerful in a group setting, especially with children and adolescents. However, I have also seen this be really powerful with adult, even corporate groups, or people that work together. And in a professional workplace, or a church or a nonprofit, where they come and learn these types of interactions. Again, partnering with a horse, they might go through an obstacle course where they have to learn how to communicate effectively, but in a different way than they are used to communicating in a conference room or in a board room. So it's experiential type learning where the horse provides as a team member, one or more horses can provide that immediate input. And then the last one you mentioned was the equine assisted psychotherapy, which is similar to Hippotherapy, but really focusing on having the client or the participant is under the care of a licensed mental health professional, and they bring the horse in as part of the team with a specific treatment plan in mind, that's appropriate to that individual. And then the horse help as a participant, the client to work through whatever stages the therapist sets out, or the counselor or the social worker, or whoever is licensed to guide that that session. In our case, we have not done this yet. But it is in our strategic plan to offer that here at renew. But that session would also be an equine specialist, who is certified to participate in that type of session would also be part of that team treatment for the EAP session or the psychotherapy session. So hopefully, that helps clear up those four different areas. They are unique, each one is different than the other. But the common thread is that there is a horse that is part of the therapeutic intervention, that really would not be the same if the horse were not present.

Steve:

Now, you had mentioned in a previous conversation about a horse being a prey animal. Yeah, that makes it kind of unique in terms of its interaction with the individual who's writing it. Could you explain that a little bit?

Unknown:

Absolutely. That is one of the reasons that horses are so beneficial to humans, they are domesticated. So they even though there are still wild horses in this country, and they're the majority of horses are domesticated. Horses are prey animals. They are by very nature, very, very receptive to their surroundings, they're very aware of their environment. And they're very cautious about who they allow into their presence, and especially in close proximity to them. So just being in the presence of horses, it involves some degree of self awareness, it forces you to be aware of your body language, it requires trust on the part of the horse. And on the part of the participant. Horses, their eyes are set on the size of their heads. So they can see very clearly around them. But they are because of their keen awareness. They communicate or give instant feedback to the people that are working with them in the moment. So if the horse is unsure of something, you will know immediately they will swish their tail, they will flick their ears they will nor they will react, they will try to move out of the way. So they are in that sense, a perfect partner in teaching a lot of skills. I was in a session once and this was a learning session. So an equine assisted learning session with a group of professionals and a horse kept backing away. We were we were working with a horse who was free in the arena. We were just walking around, and there wasn't much of an agenda but the horse kept backing away from one young man every time he tried to approach this mayor and essentially he he realized that he was being too aggressive in his body language and she didn't want to be near him. That whatever vibe he was putting off but it's his big light bulb. moment was, well, what am I? What kind of repellent Do I have around me where he was coming across as harsh or as too intense that made that horse not want to be around him. And it helped him to reevaluate how he was coming across to other people. So that's an example of that, that they are highly intuitive give instant feedback, they don't lie. So they won't take it, they will tell you immediately if something is bothering them, or if they are fearful or unsure.

Steve:

They make very bad poker players.

Unknown:

Exactly, exactly. They're very honest. And so that is, that is the other thing that makes them really good partners for this work that we do. And in seeking therapeutic interventions for people.

Steve:

When we lived in Arizona, I had a couple of friends who grew up around horses, and I didn't I grew up in Chicago suburbs, they would tell me, they were just very magical animals, for lack of a better word that could sense so many different things. And they said at that time, even before my son was involved in Hippotherapy, that if they put a child on the back of a horse, the horse will react very differently than if somebody else got on the horse, especially if the child had a disability, the horse could sense that, then that seemed kind of hard to imagine. But what you're saying they're able to read people quite well,

Unknown:

that is exactly right. And I used to joke with some of our staff a few years ago that our horses expect so much more out of us, they absolutely know the difference than if we are in their presence. Or if we ride them for exercise, they expect certain things of the instructors or the staff, which is very different than they would if your son Liam was riding or if a child was riding, they have to be smart enough to know that and accept that and be a willing participant in that. And I should also say, Steve, that this job of being a therapy horse is not one that many horses are wired for. They don't make good therapy horses, because they find it too stressful being that intuitive all the time or having to adapt, but the ones that we have at renew, have demonstrated that they can tell the difference, and that they understand their role. And then we really look to see that they are happy in this role as well, because we need the horse to be happy. Because without them, we can't provide this service. So we we do watch for that we train them. And the training really never ends. We work with them constantly. During this COVID crisis, we've been making it a priority to work with our horses, so that they are well prepared to go back to work. As soon as we are able to do services. Again,

Steve:

service dog can be trained to perform certain services for their individual, but they're also selected based upon their predisposition or horses trained or you just take one that exhibits those kind of behaviors and use that one for therapeutic rating. I mean, it can be trained for this or it is the natural skill, it's something

Unknown:

that is an excellent question, we do have a list of criteria that we look for, when we look to take a horse into the program. And the more life experience the horses had, usually the better, they are able to adapt to being a therapy horse. So I say have had a show career, for instance, or been a trail horse or been through a four H program. They've had some layers of skill, and they've adapted to certain things already. However, we do have horses in the program that really their previous career, they were just pet and they were owned by a family that just spoiled them gave them treats maybe road very occasionally. And they have adapted. So we look for the personality, we look for the training, but we also look for the personality, that their physical fitness, we take that into consideration. We do not typically take in horses that come from a rescue situation because if they have been mistreated or abused or not been well taken care of, then we feel like it's unfair to ask them to take care of the population that we serve if they are not fully equipped to do so. So we we look for horses that are strong, healthy, able to work willing to work, but for many of them, it's a second or third career. So it really varies by horse.

Steve:

They might be less trusting of people if they've been abused by a person.

Unknown:

Exactly. They usually have their own trauma that they're dealing with. And we don't feel like it's fair to expect the high standards of being in these situations where we might be working with people with in wheelchairs or people with challenging emotional responses. We don't want to cause undue stress to the horse if they are not in a good space to handle that themselves.

Steve:

And one more question before we take a quick break. The movement of the horse is what provides the input to the individual the trunk or what ever else now My son has cerebral palsy and autism and other people have other physical needs because of their particular disability. What is it about the horses movement that is beneficial to an individual writing?

Unknown:

That is another great question. And I'm glad you asked because it really is amazing the movement of the horse and the input that the horse provides to the rider to the person who is sitting astride the horse on the horses back, it is so powerful, they have not been able to duplicate it in a clinical setting, with a machine per se. So I, when I talk to groups about this, I usually ask people to sit as if they were sitting on a horse, sit in a chair, sometimes sit on their hands, they can really feel the bottom of their pelvis on the back of their hands. And because of the size of horses, and because they have four legs that move individually, and we're just talking at a walk, it's a four step beat, so it's a 1234. So that movement, horses move, the one two would be say, on the same side. So if we imagined we were walking along a fence rail and say there was a one, two on the right side and a three, four, on the left side, the horse would shift the riders weight forward and back providing an anterior posterior tilt of the pelvis, they would shift it left and right, which is the lateral movement. And then because when they shift that movement from 1234, and then back to one, there's a rotational movement, so it moves the hips in a circle. So there's three different planes of movement happening in one stride, just in receiving that motion from the horse's back provided by the four legs. So in one hour, a horse takes between eight and 10,000 steps. So what that requires of the rider is eight to 10,000, core balancing movements in one hour of riding. So in order to receive that, that rider needs to engage through their torso, which usually involves the core, some tightening of the core muscles, and then they need to shift their weight. And that involves a shift in the angle of their pelvis and their spine, just to stay upright on the horse. So as I have talked to physical therapists over the years, and I have tried to engage with them about goals for certain riders, they are always amazed at the physical impact of just sitting astride a horse and walking have on the human body, that there's really nothing else that is that efficient at providing that number of core balancing movements. And I'll just give you an example, a person who might go be working on core strengths or balance with their physical therapist, they might have to go do 100 bounces on a yoga ball with their legs astride. And that might be a reasonable goal for a physical therapy session. Whereas if they were riding a horse in a therapeutic riding or a hypnotherapy session session, they would get eight to 10,000. So it's that much greater. So really, I think the possibilities are endless. We see our riders benefit from having their core stronger. I had a young man as a student, and the mother was just overjoyed because he could sit up straighter at the dinner table after riding with us for about three months. So that was just a huge goal. Because as people with disabilities in particular physical challenges as they age, getting exercise or trying to find things to engage the core become more and more challenging. So that is really the huge benefit to riding my I believe riding is good for everybody, not just people with disabilities, but everybody, which is

Steve:

another question I had, because I know that we started doing this with my son because of a cerebral palsy. And I forgot who recommended this to us. But it was, you know, almost a decade and a half ago. But it's not just people with cerebral palsy. You just said everybody could benefit from this. So anybody who wants to engage in therapeutic writing, it doesn't have to have a particular diagnosis. almost anybody could benefit from this.

Unknown:

That is correct. One of the so it would depend on there are many different places around that offer riding lessons and some may be therapeutic riding or just riding. At renew. We do focus on people who have a medical diagnosis for the most part. However, we have also one of our strategic goals is to promote inclusion. So we have had specialty camps where we have offered writing to siblings, to friends to family members, and then To our volunteers so that they can experience some of the benefits of riding and and get a deeper understanding of what's happening it when they see a therapeutic riding lesson taking place, I wish we could open it up and serve the entire community. But then we would not have as many spaces available to serve those with a diagnosis or those with disabilities. So that's the area we choose to focus, but we look for ways to promote inclusion anywhere we can.

Steve:

Excellent. We'll take a short break right now and then come back and talk about the organization to which redo blogs to path and also how people can learn more about Renu and maybe determine if their family member would benefit from this based upon third type of diagnosis. So we'll take a short break and be right back.

Unknown:

Thank you for tuning in to navigating life as we know it. This is Alex producer and office mixologist here with your mid episode announcements. First off, we passed a major milestone last week breaking 500 downloads. So a big thank you to everyone who helped us get this far. Second, we are revamping our online presence by making some changes to our website and working to set up our Patreon to better fit the needs of our project. Whether you support us by becoming a monthly donor on Patreon or by introducing someone new to our podcast. We are grateful for your help. I'm not going to keep any longer. Please enjoy the rest of our episode and have a wonderful listening experience and I'll see you in the credits.

Steve:

Alright, I am back with Melissa Cotter at renew. Today we want to talk about the second part about the organization you belong to which is called path and that of course is an acronym is everything seems to be Could you please explain what path is?

Unknown:

Absolutely I would be happy to pass stands for the professional association of therapeutic horsemanship, international, they are an international organization. It isn't the accrediting body for our industry. And it is also the certifying body in that they certify instructors and therapists and they accredit centers. So PAF originally was called Nara, a different acronym, founded in 1969. It stood for the North American writing for the handicapped Association. And I still meet people that know it as Nara. But in 2011, they changed their name to path which was more of a universal term, using the umbrella of therapeutic horsemanship, which really covers all of the terms that we talked about and all of the services realizing that riding the horse was really just part of what was available in terms of therapeutic interventions involving horse. So that is path international is a member organization. I have been a member of path since 2005. And I have been certified as an instructor since 2005. And then I have added some different credentials along the way with path. And I had the privilege now of actually being a faculty member with path, though I teach workshops for people who are interested in becoming instructors. And I have also taught for the last several years at their international conference, which is usually held annually in different locations around the country. So that's the that is the Justice path. We are organized into regions. So really just for networking purposes. And here in Michigan, we are part of region four, we have our regional director, region four consists of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and then also Ontario, we have our Canadian friends joining us in Region four. So I couldn't imagine being in this industry and not having the kind of support that are provided by path. So I do try to take full advantage of my own professional membership. I love going to conferences, I love the networking and the educational opportunities, and then the professional standards as well. There are about 180 standards that passed that scores for centers seeking to be accredited. They are everything from safety standard, to equine standard insurance standards, financial standards, centers, who are accredited, demonstrate that they have their ducks in the row in a row. They've done their homework, they've done the work. And they have site visitors that come in and validate that they are following all of the standards. So a few years ago, gosh, actually I guess it was about 10 years ago, I became A site visitor for a path that I do enjoy going and visiting other centers in the Midwest to do their accreditation visits when path requests that I do. So

Steve:

is that done annually or how frequently

Unknown:

that is done every five years. So at renew, we became our premier accredited center in 2016. So we will have our re accreditation in 2021. We do sign every year, we have to submit our application to pass that we are still operating and find the code of ethics and that we are still following all of the standards. But we don't actually undergo a site visit is only once every five years.

Steve:

Now, if somebody was interested in becoming a therapeutic writing instructor or something in the industry, you said you're an instructor.

Unknown:

I am I am a faculty member for path. So but they don't have to come just to me, even though I would be happy to help. If anybody wants to become an instructor, there is a process through path, they can go to the path website, it is path international.org, and it is abbreviated P a t h i n ntl.org. And right on the homepage of the website, there is a box I believe with a yellow box that says instructor certification. If you click on that box, it will take you to the page where you can download the application booklet and then start the process. It does take probably one to two years to go through the full instructor certification process. There are some different steps you have to do along the way some prerequisites the online testing, and path has just recently. In fact, this year of 2020 is a transition year for path where they are moving towards accreditation of the certification process, which means that it the testing is transitioning to being in essence, a board exam where you would go to a testing center, once you have met all of their prerequisites, which includes force knowledge, teaching hours, many different online classes, then you go to a testing site to take the final exam, and then you would be a credentialed CTR II, which is a certified therapeutic riding instructor. And you can actually put those initials after your name to that process is

Steve:

explained on the website. I just do most people that do this have a previous history with horses, or do some people come without having any never having owned a horse but just are intrigued by the process of instructing.

Unknown:

Most people do come in with horse experience. If they do not, then usually I for one would encourage them to get the horse experience and go and take lessons be around horses as much as possible. It is a credential really requires that you be a professional in the equine world, and a professional in the world of working with people with disabilities. So it's really like a dual certification. And it is most people come in heavier on one side than the other. So usually tell people get all the education you can self educate yourself in this process, because it is a a process where it's not many colleges offer coursework in what we do, even though it's becoming more and more prevalent. But there is a real lack of education. But there's resources out there a path has some resources, they can refer you to look for a premier accredited center and go and talk to the staff there about how they were certified. I would certainly be happy to answer any questions if anyone was interested in some resources on how to become certified. But a lot of it is variance education you come in with the easier the process is because it's hard to gain all of that that's not all provided for you along the way.

Steve:

And I would imagine if someone in not in the Michigan area was interested in finding a therapeutic writing organizations such as your own, they would find that also what that path intel.org

Unknown:

Yes, actually there is a one of their links is find a center and you can click that link and type in a state or a zip code and it will tell you centers that are near you.

Steve:

So how does someone learn more about renew? You have a website note Oh wow.

Unknown:

Yes, thank you for asking. We have a website it is renew trc.org. So our e n e w t rc.org. So our website is is there and and is up to date. We also are very active on our face. Facebook page. And that is again, renew therapeutic riding center, Holland, Michigan, they can explore there you can learn all about our staff or board members. We are a 501 c three nonprofit organization, our horses are on that page, we have a calendar of our events. Right now we even have some virtual learning activities that we can have linked through our website. And we are posting several times a day on our Facebook page, trying to keep our community engaged during this time. But there's lots of different ways to learn about us whether you're interested in how to become a participant, or how to become a volunteer, or how to engage with our community in any way we would, we would love to connect with you

Steve:

so that they can make a donation on that page to

Unknown:

absolutely like everything, there is a Donate button on the website. And we we did a week before last we held a virtual fundraising event, which was the first time we had ever attempted anything like that. And it didn't go very well, we were pleased with with the outcome. But we are scheduled to hold a live event on June 18, which is supposed to be our grand opening. And when we would be celebrating our denim and diamonds, which is our major event of the year. And we are still the jury's still out on whether we're going to be able to hold that event or not. Or it might be a drive thru event. So we will be putting up information on that too. If you are in the West Michigan area and are interested,

Steve:

it's hard to imagine having an event like that and keeping everybody six feet apart.

Unknown:

Exactly. Even though we were trying to imagine that on 20 acres, we might be able to pull it off, we probably could. But yeah, and fortunately, with social distancing is still is our new normal. It's certainly not what we had originally planned upon. So we'll we'll be coming up with a contingency plan and and making that plan known

Steve:

to everybody. And one last observation and and I don't have any history with horses, except having going writing a couple times and obviously taking Liam to ride. They are amazing animals from everything I've heard and experienced with them the little experience that I have. But I would imagine that given the current situation and the change of their schedules and what they're used to in terms of interaction with human beings, this is stressful for them to do nothing, the same way that many people are saying that I feel very anxious, and I feel very lethargic. At the same time, I should be doing something but I have no motivation. Because we're socially disconnected. How are the horses reacting? How are they? How are they putting up with this?

Unknown:

Well, that is? That's a very interesting question as well. And Gosh, I don't think anyone has asked me that question in the six weeks or so that we should be under this. So I appreciate the chance to answer. Honestly, horses live in the moment. They don't live in the past or the future, like like people do. So I think they are all doing just fine. They look at us a little bit strangely, when I think especially at the beginning when it was only one person at a time coming out, you know, to feed them or to do their care read, like Where's everybody, but they have stopped stopped wandering. They are they are perfectly content. We have a small group of staff who are essential, who are doing the feeding and the care and the exercising so that we can keep them groomed and tuned up. And I think as soon as we are able to open again and have students and volunteers and families around, they will immediately adapt and be like, Oh, I wondered where you were. They don't they don't worry about it. So they don't, they all have beautiful outdoor spaces to be they have food to eat. And that's mostly what they care about.

Steve:

They don't have nervous watches, they don't really know how much time is passing.

Unknown:

Exactly, exactly. So they're happy at the new farm, they have a lot more space to live outside than they did previously. So they have no complaints.

Steve:

You know, horses and dogs have a lot to teach us I think about living in the moment and appreciating all that it is right now instead of worrying about the past and being stressed out about the future.

Unknown:

Now that is very true. Very, very true.

Steve:

Well, Melissa, it was a pleasure talking with you and I what I like about what I do is I learn something every time I talk to someone about a different aspect of disability. I think what you do is a wonderful thing. In 101 more question actually wanted to get in here. It's quite possible. Some of you listening to this might say Gee, I don't really have a whole lot of experience in horses but I sure would like to volunteer because it sounds like fun. How do they do that?

Unknown:

Well We absolutely could not do what we do without volunteers. So I would encourage anybody who would like to get involved to go to our website, renew trc.org and click on the volunteer link, we have a forum on our website that you can type in your just your basic information, your name, your email, and then you will be contacted by our volunteer coordinator who can set up a training, we rely on volunteers for absolutely everything that we do. In particular, as we offer therapeutic riding lesson, many of our students require a horse leader, and at least one sidewalker. And those are volunteer positions. So while we have about 200, active volunteers, we always need more. And we also have volunteers that helps do horse care that help maintain the facility that help with any projects we might have from cutting grass to trimming, knocking down cobwebs in the barn, cleaning out the paddocks or cleaning the stalls, there's always some work to be done at a farm. There's plenty to do. So yes, we welcome people to we work really hard to try to build our volunteer community and our volunteers are just fantastic people willing to give up their time to to serve the community. So

Steve:

we'd love to have you on the other side of this pandemic. As people get out and about some more and your business grows with the new location. I'm sure that maybe you'll come a time when 200 volunteers isn't enough.

Unknown:

Exactly, exactly. And we look forward to that day.

Steve:

Again, Melissa, thank you very much. It's been a pleasure. And I hope that I hope everything works out for June 18. I look forward to being there. So we'll talk to you later.

Unknown:

Great. Thank you so much, Steve. Thank you Have a great day. You too.

Kerry Johnson:

Welcome once again to the unlucky chat cafe. I am Carrie co host of the podcast and head barista at the cafe come on in and have a seat. Today, Steve visited with Melissa Connor from the renew therapeutic riding center in Holland, Michigan. Steve's here. So let's start the discussion. Steve, who knew horses were so versatile,

Steve:

I assure you didn't there. They are really amazing creatures. They're very, very perceptive animals. They're pretty animals. They're aware of their environment that which that's what makes them so helpful in being therapeutic animals. They have a strong survival instinct. They can read human emotions. And more than that intentions, they're always because they're prey animals, they get eaten by other ones, they got to be very careful what's going around them. And they do show that there are people they don't trust and when they don't body language, their body language of the swish through tail and they sometimes will stop with their front legs. That's always a bad science. It's not like they're trying to count and that count and change. Okay, yeah. reminds me that several, many years ago, I hate that mention how many you and I were on a trail ride in Arizona. You remember that? Yes. And I had a horse.

Kerry Johnson:

As you and Holly

Steve:

was me and Holly. Okay, see, I got the memory problem. Well, the horse all of a sudden did a vertical jump and moved over like three or four feet. And when you're not expecting that to happen, that is rather disconcerting, and the trail guy and said, Oh, I probably saw a rattlesnake, which was even more disconcerting, but I'm kind of glad the horse evaded the snake because he threw me off, I might be jumping a vertical jump to three foot to the side, because I would have found the snake to anyway, they are extremely aware of their environment, very sensitive, and that's what makes them effective animals for therapy. And I learned that there were at least four different types of therapy that we talked about. Hippotherapy which does not involve hippopotamuses, but does involve horses Hippo is Greek for horse, and that is a horse therapy. There's therapeutic writing God

Kerry Johnson:

if you're gonna say horse of another color to say yes, there's

Steve:

equine assisted learning. That was really interesting. equine assisted psychotherapy.

Unknown:

Yes. Very interesting.

Steve:

It really is. I mean, I can understand why these are concentrated areas of learning because you really have to find out how to use this horses challenge to work with an individual.

Kerry Johnson:

Now when Liam was involved in therapeutic riding, I'm sorry. Hippotherapy, actually, because it was therapeutic at that time. It wasn't just learning to ride. We'd also heard about a group of horses that were being used for strictly young women who were abused at risk. And that program was just starting Arizona when we lived there many moons ago and it was doing so well,

Steve:

and the horse we I don't know what the role they played in there, but I can appreciate that now from hearing Exactly. Exactly. Mingus mountain, I think it was.

Kerry Johnson:

Yes. And when I met Melissa was talking about the Boys and Girls Clubs and winning communication. I mean, that's also part of what these young ladies were were learning. And we didn't even know that horses have just

Steve:

learned to trust. Oh, yeah.

Kerry Johnson:

Oh, yeah. Right. And then I also thought it was that the corporate training, I thought that was also a very interesting anecdote that she related there. And you came up with a great idea.

Steve:

Well, would they? She mentioned about that one young man who, every time he approached the horse, it would back off, and it would show that it would swish his tail or that he wasn't the horse was not really warming up to him. And the young man had this idea that Oh, my gosh, well, maybe I'm coming on too aggressively. And I just thought, wouldn't it be cool if the last part of the hiring process for Corporation was, well, you got to go talk to trigger. In the room right over there, just here kick this carrot with you. And the one who makes the final decisions to hire for Apple and for Amazon is a horse. Maybe Mr. Ed Mancos, Mr. Ed could talk back when she talked about the movement of the horse. I mean, I knew that was the whole issue. It's helped our son a lot. As a matter of fact, he has no Liam is now seeing a regular physical therapist in bringing him for the first evaluation. She was surprised he had a range of movement that she was really surprised to see that and I mentioned that well, he has been going to Hippotherapy. She says, Oh, that must be it. Right? I had no idea it would be had that profound. But then when Melissa mentioned there is eight to 10,000 steps that a horse takes in one hour, just walking around. That seems incredible to me, but eight to 10,000 course, they got four legs on how to calculate that. But the rotation, you know that she mentioned the right side, front and back the left side, front and back. And then you're at the same time you're circling around, so you're having maybe eight to 10,000 different motions like that. It's got to make a difference. And obviously it does.

Kerry Johnson:

Absolutely that's, I mean, that was one of the selling points for me with getting Liam involved in this so many years ago was that was giving him his actually his pelvis region movement that due to his spasticity he could never do, but this was allowing him to have that input, which would help his walking

Steve:

with a walker and

Kerry Johnson:

loose so obviously, that's paying off. I always notice as well, when when he's riding that when he's on that horse, his posture.

Steve:

Yes, he sets up nicely, so

Kerry Johnson:

fabulous. It just impresses me

Steve:

one more thing that we weren't going to talk about, but it surprised me when she talks about horses personalities. I thought that was really cool that you know, these,

Kerry Johnson:

Mr. Ed was nothing like trigger personalities.

Steve:

This is true, because trigger was the strong silent type and mystery and endless

Kerry Johnson:

silver never said a word.

Steve:

Right, right. Hi. Oh,

Kerry Johnson:

hi. Oh,

Steve:

thank you very much, and have a great day. Bye. Thanks for listening to our episode. If you'd like to help support our show, please join our community on Facebook and consider becoming a monthly sustainer on Patreon. For example, our entry tier is $3 a month, which helps cover our hosting costs. Check us out on patreon.com slash n l A Wk I would like to thank our team members for their work both on and off the mic. Alex is the producer and the director of navigating life as we know it. We Steven Kerry are your hosts Special thanks to project intern, Daniela Munoz and Holly at Holly Hawk designs in Bloomington, Illinois, for our web services. Please help our podcast grow by sending us your questions supporting us on Patreon. We're just committed to introduce someone new to our show. Thank you for listening