Lovelane Special Needs Therapeutic Riding Program
Posted | Tags: Youth
Lovelane Special Needs Therapeutic Riding Program Is Changing The Lives Of Many People Of All Ages
Lovelane, located in Lincoln, Massachusetts, has been providing highly sophisticated and therapeutic horseback riding programs for special needs kids for over 24 years. Every week, approximately 110 children and young adults, from the greater Boston area, depend on this remarkable facility for its unique brand of therapeutic horseback riding therapy. Per one Lovelane student, “At Lovelane it seems like it’s my family, it’s like another home to me.” Lovelane offers children with any number of speech, cognitive and coordination issues, including cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, autism and cancer, the opportunity to experience a brand of therapy that is both beneficial and completely enjoyable. Their beautiful, relatively new, 5-acre facility was established in 2004. It features a handsomely appointed, 12 stall barn, turn-out paddocks for the horses, a 160 x 172 foot, heated indoor ring with a viewing room for riders’ families, an outdoor riding ring, sensory enhanced, therapeutic riding trails, and a therapy room. The program runs year round and, students, accompanied by a trainer and as many as three volunteer staffers, are encouraged to stretch, bend, and interact safely and gently with the horse.
As we work with a wide range of individuals: children age 2 all the way up to young adults, I wouldn’t define any of our weekly, private 1/2 hour lessons as typical, Debby Sabin, Lovelane’s founder, said. The horse is part of an overall therapeutic philosophy that may also include pre-ride stretching, ball throwing, and other specialized exercises. We continually add new challenges, to keep the therapy engaging, as the child meets and surpasses various milestones. Many students experience major developmental leaps in balance, confidence, and communication which may have eluded them using other therapies. Lovelane occasionally offers lessons for 2 students at a time or for small groups through their affiliate programs.
Some children advance to the point where they may trot and even canter on the horse. One sight-impaired student has virtually mastered the canter. ÏBut, we want folks to remember that our primary goal is not developing equestrian skills Debby stated, as much as emphasizing the development of gross and fine motor skills as well as cognitive and communication capabilities. Students are not only accompanied in the ring but through specially designed sensory riding trails, where they can enjoy nature while being encouraged to reach and touch many of the affixed therapy Ïtoys. The trails are outfitted with a charming variety of inviting objects such as giant ladybugs, colored letters, and zoo animals as well as toy mailboxes and basketball hoops. Children are encouraged to reach, retrieve and throw, enabling them to build core body strength while having fun. And, Lovelane’s remarkably well-trained horses remain calm and attentive throughout, helping children build much-needed confidence.
Lovelane’s uniquely holistic and supportive program is tailored to cater to each child’s individual needs. By working to improve muscle tone and overall strength and encouraging students to interact with horse and handlers while overcoming challenges, the benefit to the majority of students is often multi-fold: Tight, stiff muscles begin to relax, shy children become more confident and outgoing, timid students acquire self-esteem and, new cognitive skills develop. Children are also encouraged to learn responsibility: leading horses to and from the barn, participating in barn chores and horse care, never forgetting to treat these wonderful animals with kindness and respect. According to Debby, ÏWhile children are not assigned to a specific horse and are encouraged to ride as many different horses as possible, inevitably, they tend to bond with a favorite. And, they very often stay with the program for years. We have students who started with us at the age of 2 when we launched 24 years ago and they’re still taking lessons!
In addition to Debby Sabin, Lovelane is run by a core staff of PATH International’s (The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) certified riding instructors along with 140 volunteers. And, these folks are dedicated to riders and horses, alike. The calm, patient therapeutic rides enjoyed by the students are facilitated through consistent maintenance of each horse’s fitness and peace of mind. The trainers take turns riding each horse regularly: both in the ring as well on leisurely trail rides. This helps keep the horses focused and accommodating during therapy sessions. And, Lovelane has consistently used Triple Crown horse feeds. The cost per bag may be a bit higher than most other feeds, but the horses remain fit and have great attitudes. Lovelane’s managers have learned they can feed less and reduce various supplements because of Triple Crown’s remarkable nutrition. This helps them control costs, which is critical to their mission.
How Can You Help?
Lovelane’s tremendous, annual fundraising efforts and the generous donations of their many sponsors has allowed the program to expand in size to better meet the demands of the Ïspecial needs community. The monthly care for the horses costs upwards of $12,000 a month, alone. Each year, the facility must raise more than $450,000 to meet its operating budget. Lovelane continues to reach out to potential new sponsors wishing to help even more children take advantage of their program. With more than 40% of students requiring tuition assistance, any donor gift is welcomed. According to one Lovelane Parent, When my daughter is on a horse, she is functioning like a child without a disability. We are so thankful; we would not be here without the tuition assistance. Given the program’s excellent reputation and remarkable effectiveness, new students and their families must join a waitlist before being initiated into the program.
We wish to encourage everyone with a heart to consider donating as well. Please visit the Lovelane Website at http://www.lovelane.org to learn more about the program, staff, students, horses, events and what you can do to help.