Horses & Horizons Therapeutic Learning Center, Inc. is looking for volunteers to help with its program of therapeutic horseback riding for children and adults with special needs. The center is located 10 miles south of Tamaqua, near Route 309, and offers special riding lessons on Monday and Wednesday evenings from May through October.

H.H.T.L.C. is a registered nonprofit organization staffed entirely by volunteers. Lesson volunteers must be at least 14 years old, in good health, and able to walk for an hour at a time. They must successfully complete a volunteer training session, provided by H.H.T.L.C. While experience with horses and/or people with disabilities is helpful, it is not necessary in order to assist with lessons.

H.H.T.L.C. welcomes the volunteer assistance of professionals in the allied health fields of physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Because safety for their riders is a primary concern, H.H.T.L.C. also needs people with horse experience to lead horses during riding lessons.

To provide continuity for their riders, H.H.T.L.C. asks volunteers for a minimum commitment of eight weeks. A volunteer may sign up for as little as two hours, one night a week, or for as many as three hours on one or both lesson nights.

Therapeutic horseback riding has been shown to improve balance, posture, strength and coordination. It also helps to increase self-awareness, self-confidence, attention span, and independence. Often, riders also gain improved social skills.

H.H.T.L.C. serves riders with a wide variety of disabilities including cerebral palsy, autism, attention deficit disorder, developmental delays, mental retardation, Down syndrome, and traumatic brain injury, among others. The lessons are designed to be both therapeutic and fun. Program director, Elaine Smith, describes the benefits of the lessons. "Some of our riders receive many different types of therapies.

H.H.T.L.C. will hold a required volunteer training session for lesson volunteers on Sunday, Aug. 29, from 1-5 p.m. at the center. Anyone who wishes to volunteer to help with the riding lessons must attend this hands-on training.

In addition to lesson volunteers, H.H.T.L.C. also needs volunteers to assist with stable and grounds maintenance, to clean saddles and bridles, and to help with fundraising. If you would like to become a volunteer, contact Miriam Winter at (570) 386-2743. For information on enrolling a rider, or if you would like more information on Horses & Horizons Therapeutic Learning Center, Inc., call Harvey or Elaine Smith at (570) 386-5679 or visit www.horsesandhorizons.org.