Ride to Walk
● By Wendy Sipple
Photo by Dante Fontana
Ever since ancient man and horse joined forces, the burdens of life became a bit easier.
Author Helen Thomson said, “In riding a horse we borrow freedom.” As with our ancestors, strong steady steeds have enriched and eased our lives.
The horses of Lincoln’s Ride to Walk (RTW) keep the tradition of assisting man alive by alleviating pain and frustration for children and adults whom are suffering from neurological challenges. This non-profit organization has made a difference in hundreds of riders’ lives by helping them improve their balance, muscle strength and flexibility. People with mental and emotional disabilities can gain from the program by increasing patience, self-esteem and overall confidence.
The benefits of therapeutic riding have been known for centuries. Medical experts agree too that a horse’s walking action mimics the human body’s movement. People have to work hard to keep their balance and move their trunk, arms, legs and the rest of the body to keep upright safely in the saddle. Along with these important physical aspects, riders feel a sense of accomplishment after a successful ride.
“There is nothing like riding a horse,” says Dr. Kristine Corn, RTW Director. “The benefits are immeasurable for these children.” Dr. Corn, a certified physical therapist, often rides along with some of the children dealing with major challenges. “I have seen such improvement in their physical and mental wellbeing,” she explains.
The 21-acre Lincoln ranch has a six-acre pond, an indoor riding arena and a lot of things needed for keeping horses and hosting riders. “We have a beautiful new tack room this year,” Facilities Director Terry Campbell explains. “The donation of this addition really has helped.”
RTW cannot operate without volunteers and they can always use more. People of all ages are needed to fill positions such as groomers, side walkers and other important duties. “Right now, we have about 40 active volunteers,” says Assistant Director Susan Brouwer. “If you love animals and are willing to learn, we would love to have you.”
RTW is facing a major challenge right now. Due to California’s budget crisis, they have lost 100 percent of their state funding for at least a year. “These cuts are devastating,” Dr. Corn says, “We really need the community’s assistance to [continue] helping the children.”
Local businesses have stepped up to the challenge and have been a great support. One is Sacramento-based Niello Volkswagen; they will again host their “Ranch Run” this year. It’s a fun way for Volkswagen enthusiasts to help, with all proceeds going to RTW. The 2009 run brought 450 VWs and $22,250. “We are hoping to get 600 drivers to participate this year,” Campbell says.
Watching children’s eyes brighten when their horse approaches is beyond heartwarming. Their ride is breathtaking as volunteers walk beside them on these majestic mounts. A mix of words of encouragement, horse hoofs rhythmically clomping, and children’s laughter echo within the arena walls. It is inspiring to be with these incredible kids and volunteers.