Big things have been happening here at Southern Reins! It's hard to imagine that just a year ago we had a roster of about 40 participants, and that number had doubled in just 12 months!
We have added new horses to support our growing programs, including Bella, a draft cross mare who was saved from the New Holland auction in Pennsylvania. Bella has been amazing to train and has officially made her debut in our therapeutic riding program. She is an 8 year old draft cross who comes in at just under 15 hands - making her the perfect size for our participants and volunteers to work with. We have also added two large warmblood geldings: Ozzie and Mickey, who are on loan from our favorite local equestrian celebrity Olympic medalist, Melanie Smith Taylor. Although both boys are right at 16 hands or taller, they are lovely . . .even for our smallest participants. And then there is Baby, the newest member of the therapy herd. She is a 19 year old 14.2 polo pony that came to us from a local polo player, only about a week after her final match with the same owner and rider of over 15 years! All of these new guys bring something amazing and unique to our programs, and have quickly become some of the favorites in the barn!
We are excited to announce that earlier this year we launched our Unbridled Horsemanship Program; a hands-on recreational equine program offered to people with disabilities and veterans who reside in group homes, participate in support groups and learning programs, or are in care at a residential treatment facility. There is no age limit for this program and groups consist of 3-8 participants. Activities include horse grooming, leading, equine assisted activities and recreation using the horses, education about horses and horsemanship, horse handling skills and more.
In addition, Southern Reins Center for Equine Therapy and Behavior Services of the Mid-South (BSMS) have partnered together to offer an Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) and Equine Program. Behavior Services of the Mid-South is the area’s leading provider of site-based behavioral and mental health services; providing state of the art, trauma informed solutions to removing roadblocks to success. Services are provided to children, adolescents, adults and businesses and include individual sessions, small group sessions, team building programs and trauma programming.
Southern Reins has been providing Hippotherapy services since 2016. This year we welcomed two new fabulous Occupational Therapists to our staff, Beth Crowell and Amanda Warren! Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy treatment strategy that utilizes the movement of the horse as part of an integrated intervention program. In conjunction with the affordances of the equine environment and other treatment strategies, Hippotherapy is part of a patient's integrated plan of care and is offered in 4-week sessions at our facility.
Southern Reins is also honored to support the PATH, Intl. Equine Services for Heroes Program. The goal of the program is to improve the quality of life for military men and women, as well as first responders, who have been injured in service to our country. Therapeutic riding and equine assisted activities offers physical and emotional healing, with a focus on building confidence, self-awareness, improved communication, trust, and decreased anxiety and stress. We are a few weeks into the start of our first session with several amazing people participating in both mounted and unmounted. Jill Haag, PATH Intl. Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor and the Executive Director here at Southern Reins has been faithfully working away to develop this program - and is in the ring teaching lessons to our awesome veterans every Friday morning!
Lastly, I just can't say enough about the awesome growth of our riders. The participants in our therapeutic riding program have been making leaps and bounds in learning riding skills here at Southern Reins. Therapeutic Riding lessons target physical, social and recreational goals for each individual participant. Southern Reins offers group lessons with 2-4 riders in each class. Classes include mounting, exercise and skills development, and dismounting. Some lessons may include a barn or horsemanship lesson to expand the participant’s interaction and connection with their horse or pony. We have several riders that have become “unclipped” which means they are able to steer the horse and control the horse at the walk in the arena without a volunteer having a lead rope attached to the horse's halter. I am proud to say that a few of our riders have not only been able to walk independently, but are also working toward mastering the trot and the canter! Not only do our riders go home proud of their accomplishments here at the farm, but parents and caregivers continue to report improvements in core strength, posture, self awareness, social skills, and behavior at home and at school. Our Instructor In Training, Mariah Johnson, has finished her prerequisite teaching hours in our therapeutic riding program, and she is going for her certification next month. We wish her the best of luck, and are excited to add a new PATH Intl. Registered Instructor to our team soon!
It has been a time of big growth, and even bigger achievements for our program. We are gearing up for our big Fall Session starting August 29, and we anticipate serving more than 70 people each week! I know I'm excited to have everyone back - and I can't wait to see our participants break through boundaries and reach milestones they never could have imaged.