In Memory of Joan Terry -
CHASE - Challenged Horsemen and Special Equestrians
"I don't know if it's the riding but " is the statement I have heard throughout the years teaching disabled children. Moms will tell me how their daughters have crawled upstairs for the first time or walked with crutches instead of a walker after only a few months of riding.
Not being a therapist myself, I credit the horses themselves as being the reason for improvement. I am only an instructor and any therapy will come solely from the horse. But then that's the basis on which therapeutic riding started. The movement of the horse will stimulate the leg muscles. Sitting on the horse will increase balance and in doing so strengthen trunk muscles. Using reins will work the upper body, arms, hands and fingers - everything you and I take for granted. All the while the students are exercising, they are also having fun. They are riding!
CHASE Riding Center, acronym for Challenged Horsemen and Special Equestrians, started in 1993 as a private entity - my project. I met with many obstacles, mostly monetary, as I never made enough to cover the insurance, and finally took my students to another barn from 1997-1999.
In the summer of 1999, a friend, Joan Terry, and I decided to run CHASE out of my back yard again on a small scale. I had the perfect experienced lesson pony, and a couple of inexperienced but willing horses. So we got together with a third party and incorporated our riding center. By incorporating, we were able to also receive a non-profit charitable status and start soliciting donations for our program. I am now a Registered Instructor for the Handicapped and CHASE is an operating center under the rules of NARHA (North American Riding for the Handicapped Association).
It took about 6 months to get through all the legal red tape and I mailed all the information and fee to the state at 3pm on August 2, 1999. The next morning I woke up to a sick pony. After 24 hours of stomach pumping and IV's, I had our perfect lesson pony put down. CHASE almost ended there, but we persevered. Two weeks later, Joan was diagnosed with cancer, but she persevered and helped me, checking out grants online.
NARHA insurance goes from July to July. We had hoped to start lessons in July of 2000. We fell short of that goal due to lack of funds. But by August, we paid the insurance and started lessons. Our mission was to raise enough funds to pay for insurance and upkeep of the horses and not to charge the students. Even though we had paid the insurance money for 2000, the money was still not happening. Joan and everyone on our board of directors kept telling me not to worry, that God would supply the money, as we both had felt that he was leading us to do this in the first place.
Joan fought a courageous battle against her cancer, not with chemotherapy, but with natural remedies, which added a quality year to her life. She passed away in September 2000. Joan's family called me to tell me they were requesting donations be sent to CHASE. Because of their thoughtfulness and the generosity of Joan's many friends, we have enough funds to insure our program for a few years.
The road has been rough, but to date we have twenty students, ages 2-16 years old. I use my two horses, one of which is 27 years old. They have both turned into nice therapy horses. I challenge anyone reading this article to try volunteering at a handicapped center near you. I answered an ad 16 years ago to be a sidewalker, and ended up an instructor. These kids are addicting. When I look at them, I don't see their disabilities; I see their abilities, their personalities and their smiles.
This article is dedicated to Joan Terry, whose help and perseverance made CHASE possible.
CHASE (Challenged Horsemen and Special Equestrians)
PO Box 102
Franklinville, NJ 08322