Every lesson, every student, every volunteer has a story.
Here are just a few …
Ben’s twin brother was the star kicker on the high school football team. His eldest brother was a star on the varsity soccer team and coaches already have an eye on his youngest brother. Ben never got that chance, despite the effort of coaches and helpers who carried him down the field in youth league practices.
Ben’s parents first noticed something was not quite right when he didn’t start walking by the typical age, while his twin was in good health and developing normally. They were stunned by the diagnosis – cerebral palsy. He started using a walker followed by a cane and his mother got him on what would prove to be a life-changing waiting list.
At age five, a spot finally opened up for classes at Loudoun Therapeutic Riding (LTR), the list his mother had fortuitously put Ben on when he was just a toddler. He was hooked. The young boy from an athletic family had found his sport. Just as a football player hits the weight room to condition, Ben hit the ring. He rode as much as he could, along the way improving his posture, balance, coordination and muscle tone.
“There’s a magic relationship between a horse and a rider,” shares Lawana, Ben’s mom. Loudoun Therapeutic Riding Director, Joanne Hart echoes this sentiment, “Horses have a ‘sixth sense’ when someone with a special need is on their back.”
Now twenty, Ben can still be found giving back to the program that has done so much for him and is one of LTR’s best ambassadors.
There are plans to build a permanent, expanded LTR facility including observation and therapy rooms, stabling for program horses and an indoor arena to meet growing demand.
“I tell everyone I know about plans for the new facility and really hope it happens soon, “ says Ben. “I shudder to think what my life would have been like if I’d never gotten off the waitlist. Riding changed my life and I know it can do the same for others.”
As a licensed psychologist and mother of five year-old Trevor, Tina was open to a diverse, integrative therapy program for her son who is on the autism-spectrum. Speech therapy, occupational therapy, and dietary interventions all proved to be of some success, but nothing came close to the positive benefits Trevor’s parents saw when he mounted a horse in the ring at Loudoun Therapeutic Riding (LTR).
“Not only does our son absolutely love the horses, but he has become calmer and more focused since beginning lessons with LTR,” Tina said. “These benefits have generalized into other settings, which has helped him to make great strides academically and behaviorally.”
Trevor’s family hopes therapeutic riding can affect the lives of many more families, especially in the face of an increasing amount of children on the autism-spectrum. “Therapeutic riding provides another option for parents to help children reach their full potential,” added Tina. “That’s all we can really ask for and LTR delivers in spades. Not only is it one of the most effective activities for Trevor, it’s a favored activity.”
Indeed, data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows the estimated number of children identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) continues to rise. What’s causing the increases is unknown. What is known and can be witnessed first-hand by anyone witnessing the interaction between students with autism and horses, is therapeutic riding is a unique and special gift to these children and their families.
The current Loudoun Therapeutic Riding (LTR) facility operates at capacity with a waitlist of participants with autism hoping to get their chance to work with our therapy horses and highly-trained and warmhearted instructors and volunteers. In a sincere attempt to accommodate growing demand, LTR (a 501c3 organization) is currently raising funds to build a state-of-the-art facility on the majestic Morven Park grounds.
See more stories at LTR in the News