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Kids riding rings around their disabilities

By Lorraine Graves

Published 10:29 PDT, Fri November 1, 2019

Last Updated: 10:50 PST, Wed November 6, 2019

The Richmond Therapeutic Riding Association opened a new riding ring at Twin Oaks Farm in October, offering lessons to children and youth with disabilities.  

“This is a project that make such a difference in the lives of children with special needs,” said Steveston MLA John Yap, who was on hand for the ribbon cutting.

Association vice-chair Bob Flynn added, “The object of the outdoor riding ring is to allow RTRA to expand their therapeutic riding program for children and youth with special needs.”

Also there for the opening, newly-elected MP Kenny Chiu said, “How strong or healthy a country is does not depend on government but on the people. I encourage all to continue to support this organization.”

Melanie Stefiuk, who chairs the RTRA board, said “This is what we hope is phase one. Stage two is to put a roof on our ring.”

Lauren Illich, whose firm Townline Homes donated $50,000—along with Y.P. Heung, who donated the other $50,000—to the new riding ring, talked of how some see horsemanship as something reserved for the elite. She was clear it is important that riding be open to all.

RTRA program director Alyssa Bigiolli said horses are very therapeutic for the riders. She said the movement of the horse actually mimics how people walk ”so when the rider is riding they get that movement through their own hips.” 

A mother of one young rider said she’s seen advances in her child because of therapeutic riding. She says participants’ balance, core strength and self-confidence are constantly growing.

Children having fun, getting healthier, growing stronger regardless of their challenges in life is what the RTRA is all about. 

“I see progress all the time,” says Bigiolli. “We have one rider in a wheelchair and he rides once a week. His physiotherapist has said now that he’s riding, when he’s on the treadmill at physio, his hips are actually moving and they weren’t before. It’s huge.”

The riders are special people, as are those offering their support either financial or through their physical labour. Volunteer Angela Beckman says she volunteers “because I like horses and kids.”

Bagiolli echoes that when asked how she feels about this organization.

“I think it’s wonderful. We get to make kids very happy. It’s a fun form of therapy for them.”

Next step according to Flynn is to put a lid on it. 

“If we can raise the funds to put a roof on the riding ring, then children can ride in any weather. Their physical progress shouldn’t have to take a break just because it’s miserable outside.” 

Also present for the opening of the new riding ring, MLA Linda Reid, who taught in Richmond schools for many years, said, “There is no greater confidence builder for a child than being astride a horse.” 

For more information or to donate your time, talents or money go to richmondtherapeuticriding.com or phone 604-241-7837

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