Although it’s summer and classes are over, the Wayne D. Boshears Center for Exceptional Programs is still finding ways to impact its students.
On Wednesday morning, students Jackson Cromeans, 4, and Dillon Welch, 18, could be seen horseback riding in the arena located on part of campus.
With a huge smile on his face and full of excitement, Welch put on his helmet and walked towards the horse, Tia.
Tia, along with five other horses, are used for therapeutic riding for students with disabilities at Boshears.
Janice McDaniel, Therapeutic Riding Instructor, has been with the program for 16 years and has seen how it changes lives.
“Very often the students surprise us and they are so capable and amazing,” she said. “The horse can bring things out and that environment can bring abilities that may not come out in a different setting.”
Although students learn to ride horses, McDaniel said the activity is not limited to learning the skill.
“The confidence, confidence and security of engaging with them is what the magic is,” she said.
According to McDaniel, horseback riding offers students the opportunity to improve their communication skills, patience, ability to concentrate, behavioral skills, muscle strength, and also provide relief if they are having a bad day.
“It’s not really about the activity you’re doing, when I tell them to turn or stop, it’s about communication,” she said.
As Welch rode the horse in the morning with help from McDaniel, she mentioned how the activity helped him.
“He says a few other words more clearly all the time, and it’s very exciting with Dillon and it keeps him focused,” she said. “He has so much to say, so much to think about and getting him to focus is one of my main goals here and to focus for a little while.”
Currently, the therapeutic riding activity consists of 40 to 50 students who are chosen based on recommendations from parents, teachers and therapists, McDaniel said.
The activity takes place three times a week and most students cycle one day a week, but this also varies from student to student.
McDaniel said the activity connects to anything the student can work on, especially applying the skills learned during the activity in the classroom and outside of school.
“If we can help them be more productive in school and more successful in life, we’ve done our job,” she said.
The horses used for the program all have one thing in common: breeding personality, she said.
Brooke Parker, director of the Wayne D. Boshears Center, said the best thing about the horseback riding activity is the different horses and how they relate to different students.
“Everything is individualized. We have a variety of horses to meet individual needs, we have a variety of equipment to meet individual needs. The activities she does with each student are individualized, the length of each lesson is individualized,” Parker said.
Parker said the activity began years ago when the campus was part of St. Louis School, which began as a recreational horseback riding activity.