Dawn Novitski spoke about Red River Riders Therapeutic Horseback Riding for the Disabled to Nu Chapter, Delta Kappa Gamma members during their April meeting in Marion.
Novitski has been a volunteer for 23 years, beginning at age 12. The Riders group was one of the first therapeutic programs in the state, established by Chris Baldwin in 1985 with one horse and three riders. Today, there are approximately 60 riders ranging in age from 3 to 74 with 7 to 10 horses.
The volunteer group works with people with hearing impairment, cerebral palsy, MS, autism, cognitive disabilities and amputations. Recently, they began working with veterans who have post traumatic stress disorder by partnering with the Wounded Warriors Project. Classes meet for three-six week sessions a year in the spring and fall.
The rhythm of horseback riding mimics that of walking. It improves muscle strength, balance, coordination, posture and reduces stress. Riding also exercises the mind by improving the ability to follow directions and increase attention spans. Riders use muscles by grooming horses and doing stretching exercises.
Safety is of utmost importance. Volunteers are trained and help in a variety of ways. A volunteer leads the horse and there is a walker on each side. Others care for the horses.
Red River Riders is fully funded by donations and volunteer time. Their address is Red River Riders, N6669 Cherry Road, Shawano, WI 54166.
If you want to donate, volunteer or know of someone who would benefit from a class, contact Chris Baldwin 715-853-6449. More information can be found on their website: www.redriverriders.org.