Equestrian teaches therapeutic horsemanship to disabled


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Sharon Hicks, KP News

What can you do with 35 acres? Sandra Reid decided she could found Boots ‘n Breeches Therapeutic Horsemanship, and that’s what her JW Farms is about. She is a member of the national organization NARHA, North American Riding Handicapped Association, which serves children and adults with disabilities.

Sandra Reid at JW Farms in Lakebay. Photo by Karina Whitmarsh

Growing up in Pennsylvania on a farm with animals of all kinds, Reid developed a love for animals and horses, which has carried on since she left her state at the age of 12. Reid’s life was interrupted, however, in 1998, when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and she was unable to work for six months. (Her MS is now in remission.) The experience gave her the incentive to realize her dream of working with horses and people in a therapeutic setting. Five years ago, the dream came true in Port Orchard, starting out with two riders. That was the beginning of Boots ‘n Breeches.

Reid’s mission is to offer a superior program that transforms individuals and encourages them to develop to their fullest through the therapeutic bond between horse and rider. Here, they can learn to regain balance, confidence, and something they can bond to that will have an impact on the rest of their lives. In April of this year, Reid moved her business to JW Farms in Lakebay on 35 acres with six horses.

Reid owns Oreo, a frisky appaloosa, and Hercules, a more serene haflinger; two other horses belong to Boots ’n Breeches and two are privately owned. A specialty of Hercules is that he will lower his head for a rider to disembark. Cash, a Border Collie, fits right in and loves to run with Oreo, back and forth, the length of the indoor arena. If he is locked out, his head can be seen bobbing up through the windows; he will then start running to catch attention. All horses are matched to the riders and will adapt to the riders’ ability. In many cases, adaptive materials such as special stirrups and back braces are used.

Horses can help people in therapeutic horsemanship, as the movement of the horse imitates the human walk by gently and rhythmically moving the rider’s body in a manner similar to a human gait. The riders show improvement in flexibility, balance, muscle strength and posture. The unique relationship formed with the horse and rider can lead to increased confidence, patience and self-esteem for individuals with mental or emotional disabilities.

Some of the disabilities that commonly benefit from equine-facilitated therapy are muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, spinal bifida, multiple sclerosis, autism, learning disabilities, emotional disorders, spinal cord or brain injuries and many, many more.

In June, Boots ‘n Breeches offered a program called Horses for Heroes in Lakewood for wounded or disabled veterans’ at Brookwood Equestrian Center.

Reid teaches classes on Monday afternoons and Saturday mornings in Lakebay and Tuesday and Thursdays in Lakewood. This summer, she will be increasing her classes and is looking for three more instructors. All classes are one hour long.

“Seeing interaction between rider and horse and to share the thrill of the rider is what makes my work so rewarding,” she says. “In one case, a little boy with autism who had not spoken was so thrilled that he said ‘Mommy, look at me.’”

Reid plans to continue Boots ‘n Breeches for as long as she can, with long-range plans for the farm to benefit more advanced riders.