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Therapists Horseshoes


in


Central Electric Cooperative is a sponsor for premier-credited therapeutic riding ranch


By Taryn Sanderson “ W


e need to do something like that.” Central Electric Cooperative member Jack Hesser turned to his wife and said this, knowing he wanted to help Turning Point Ranch (TPR) at Oklahoma State University in their search for a home.


Former special education teacher Tamera Danel founded TPR in 1999 with her two horses. They borrowed the Animal Science Arena at OSU and a parking lot near the College of Veterinary Medicine for sessions. When the facilities became too busy serving more of the university’s needs, TPR reached out to the community for help. “When I saw they didn’t have room for them, I thought the indoor arena on my property would be plenty of room for them to function here,” Hesser said. TPR received adequate funding in September 2005 and settled at the


Hessers’ Star Valley Stables in Stillwater, Okla. Hesser’s property provided stalls, paddocks, both indoor and outdoor arenas, an offi ce and a tack room to allow for more classes and services. TPR caters to students with autism, Down syndrome, speech-hearing, developmental delays and defi cits, coping and social skills. Their 40 students range from ages 3 to 33 years with 90 volunteers and 10 horses in the stables. TPR is one of two premier-credited centers in Oklahoma through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) organization. TPR Board of Directors Vice President and CEC member Dee Miller has an undeniable passion for the children and animals as well as experience from the successes with their interactions. “It’s breathtaking, sometimes tear-jerking, watching a 1,000-pound horse connecting with and supporting a rider,” Miller said. “It’s like they know these kids need them and have this better sense of patience to cater to the


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Dee Miller and Gizmo, one of the equine therapists, enjoy the warm day before a session. Photo by Amanda Lester


student’s specifi c condition.” During each session, the horse is brought to the mounting ramp and the leader stands there until each child hears ‘walk on’ to their horse. The stu- dent does warm ups for exercises then focuses on specifi c goals for their needs, whether it’s based on communication or physical activity. “There is a special bond between horse and human, especially with the students when they are on the backs of the horses and have legs to run,” Hesser said. “Because of this, I’ve even seen one little boy come out here who could not speak when he arrived and now after his sessions, he can speak a full sentence.” Students also play games and have relay races with their horses. Miller


said they use materials like noodles, hula hoops and rings to help improve their coordination and verbal skills through activities with the horses. TPR also organizes the yearly Special Olympics equestrian games and a literary program. The literacy program encourages and challenges fi rst-grad- ers to read their assigned books and, at a later date, to read to the horses at Starr Valley Stables. “You don’t have to be a horse person to be able to connect to these ani- mals,” Miller said. “It’s a very therapeutic thing for all of us here at TPR to see the kids’ accomplishments through sessions and the trust that’s created throughout their time here. We always say our horses are truly therapists in horseshoes.” Those interested in volunteering should call 405-269-2225 or email vol- unteer@turningpointriding.org. Volunteers can train to be a ‘sidewalker,’ ensuring the rider’s safety on the horse, or a ‘horse leader,’ focusing on the horse and the instructor to keep the session moving. ‘Horse Team’ volun- teers are also needed to help feed and care for the therapy horses.


For more information, visit TPR website at turningpointriding.org or fi nd them on Facebook.


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