Burnt Meadow Stables in Freedom now has a therapeutic riding center, and is accepting riding students and volunteers at the center. Burnt Meadow Stables is a full-service boarding, training and lesson facility, owned and operated by Sherry Donabedian since 1991. This fall Donabedian welcomed a new instructor, Sandra Mercurio, who is a certified instructor through the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association. Mercurio has had her certification since 2003, and owned and operated her own facility in Newton, for more than 10 years, and recently relocated to the Freedom area.Therapeutic horseback riding is not new. It was first started in this country in 1969, and earlier in Europe. Therapeutic Riding programs are aimed at helping individuals with autism, trauma, developmental and mental health issues, and physical disabilities. The center will work with students that have a variety of disabilities ranging from autism, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and brain injuries as well as emotional, learning and other physical disabilities. Therapeutic riding uses horse activities to benefit in the areas of therapy, education, sport, recreation and leisure. Equine activities are used as a form of therapy to achieve physical, psychological, cognitive, behavioral, and communication goals. Equine activities are used to achieve psycho-educational goals for people with physical, mental and psychological-impairments. Activities are directed to acquiring the skills of horsemanship. The therapeutic riding center emphasizes an enjoyable and relaxing experience, which also provides benefits in posture, mobility and overall enjoyment of life. What happens during a therapeutic riding lesson?All riders benefit from the physical aspects of horseback riding. Physically, the walking motion of the horse mimics that of the human gait, forcing the trunk to move in the same fashion. This motion exercises and strengthens the trunk, neck and leg muscles and also produces a calming effect on the rider. With individuals who have mental or emotional disorders we are able to use the horse as a modality to work on special needs and therapy. A physical therapist may be consulted and offer hands-on assistance in positioning and recommending activities for riders. Riders may play games on horseback, perform gymnastic movements on the back of a horse, learn dressage, or go for a trail ride. Activities are geared to improve and support the individual goals of the riders, their families and therapists. The instructors are trained in such as human behavior, psychology, anatomy, disability instruction, facilities and equipment, tack and special equipment, the therapy horse, lesson plans, mounting, dismounting, volunteer management, teaching techniques and administration. They work closely with the parents, caregivers and therapists to set goals for the students on an individual basis. These goals range from increasing balance, self-esteem, self worth, and social interaction to physical therapy, speech therapy and recreation. Class are booked by appointment only.Some of Burnt Meadows school horses have just completed their extensive training for the therapeutic riding program. Volunteers are a important part of the program, and the center will be recruiting and training volunteers to work with the students immediately. Experiences with horses provide therapeutic benefits to everyone involved. Some of the volunteer positions require no horse experience. For more information call (603) 367-8600 or e-mail bms_sherry@yahoo.com.

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