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Therapeutic horseback riding center hosts open house

Published May 17. 2010 05:00PM

Horses & Horizons Therapeutic Learning Center, Inc. will host its annual open house on Sunday, June 6 from 1-5 p.m. The event will feature therapeutic horseback riding lesson demonstrations at 2 p.m., free carriage rides and refreshments, and more.

Instructors, riders, volunteers, and the parents of some of the riders will be on hand to answer questions. Videos and additional information on therapeutic horseback riding also will be available. Admission is free. The farm has an indoor riding arena, so the event will be held rain or shine.

The purpose of the open house is to familiarize medical professionals and the general public with Horses & Horizons' lesson program and the benefits of therapeutic horseback riding for children and adults with special needs.

Founded in 1993, Horses & Horizons is a registered nonprofit organization. It receives no private funding and is staffed entirely by volunteers. Riders pay only a nominal lesson fee, so the center depends primarily on donations, fundraising, and an annual membership drive to pay for care of the horses and other operating expenses.

Horses & Horizons serves children and adults with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, developmental delays, mental retardation, Down syndrome, autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities, among others.

Riders must have a doctor's prescription and an evaluation by one of the center's therapists before they can participate in lessons.

The physical benefits of therapeutic horseback riding include improved balance, strength, and posture. For those with learning or mental disabilities, therapeutic riding helps to increase attention span, patience, and motivation for learning.

It also boosts self-image and independence, as well as helping to promote interpersonal relationships. Perhaps the best feature of the riding program is that its riders gain these therapeutic benefits while having fun.

Horses & Horizons Therapeutic Learning Center is located 10 miles south of Tamaqua, just off Route 309 on Zion's Stone Church Road, at Harvey and Elaine Smith's Helping Horse Farm. Smith, an occupational therapist, is the center's executive director and lesson instructor. His wife is the program director and also is a lesson instructor.

Horses & Horizons holds lessons on Monday and Wednesday evenings from May through October. It currently needs volunteers for its second eight-week session of lessons, which is scheduled to begin on July 12.

There will be a training session for new volunteers on Sunday, June 20. Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer should contact volunteer coordinator, Miriam Winter, at (570) 386-2743, or

For more information on Horses & Horizons Therapeutic Learning Center and its upcoming open house, contact Harvey or Elaine Smith at (570) 386-5679 or

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