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Kids and Horses Therapeutic Riding Center offers program for disabled youths

by Michael Scott Neuffer

The Kids and Horses Therapeutic Riding Center allows disabled children and adults to participate in physical and mental exercises while riding horses.

The non-profit organization was founded in April by Executive Director Sam Waldman. Waldman said he had no trouble finding volunteers for the program. The Rainbow Girls of Carson City, an organization of girls who perform community service, heard of the group and started volunteering immediately.

The Kids and Horses group’s main objective is to give its students an opportunity to use muscles they have never used before Waldman said.

“What we do is get information and prescriptions from each student’s doctor or physical therapist. Then, we determine what muscles he or she needs to develop and work specifically on those muscles,” said Waldman. “Horses’ walking movements are very similar to humans’ walking movements. By having them ride a horse, we’re able to exercise muscles that these kids rarely or never use.”

At least 55 disabled students work with the group of more than 40 volunteers. The arena, located off the end of Stephanie Lane in Minden, provides five horses for the participants to ride.

“Selecting horses is difficult,” said Waldman. “We need horses that are compatible and friendly but also have a good, smooth stride.”

The North American Riding for Handicapped Association provides Kids and Horses with the teaching instructions and operating guidelines they need to ensure the safety of each student. Kids and Horses works with a variety of complex disabilities ranging from autism to Down’s syndrome.

“We have a 7-year-old girl that is in a wheelchair. About four months ago, she could not walk at all. After riding these horses for a couple of months and exercising her lower body, she is able to walk 10 or 12 steps while holding the hand of her mom,” said Waldman.

“Sam is wonderful man. He works miracles for all these kids,” said Isabel Cool, mother of one of the students.

“He’s just amazing, and he has a big, huge heart.”

Waldman will be constructing an obstacle course near his arena in a couple of weeks to give his students more of a challenging, confidence-building experience.

For more information about the Kids and Horses organization, call Waldman at (775)742-1645.