Christina Jasak has seen the benefits her daughter Theresa has derived from the STAR Riding Inc. program at Hopeland Farms.
The 13-year-old, who was diagnosed with Schizencephaly, a rare brain disorder, has been able to improve her balance, coordination and strength as a result of her involvement in the riding program for people with disabilities.
“This is our second or third season,” said Christina Jasak, a resident of Richmond County. “This is something fun for her to do.”
Theresa Jasak was one of the students participating in Saturday’s STAR Riding session, conducted by the nonprofit organization’s instructor Kim Davies, who succeeded Kerri Creamer as program coordinator on Jan. 8. Davies has been an instructor with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International affiliate since 2011.
The horseman has a long association with riding programs for people with disabilities, as her father John Anthony Davies started the program in the U.K. and brought it to the United States, said Davies.
The opportunity to teach students in the program, which is open to people ages 3 through 60, brings Davies great satisfaction. She readily embraced the opportunity to teach on Saturdays, and the position evolved and grew in responsibility. Students have an opportunity not only to improve their motor skills, but their communication and interpersonal skills by interacting with the volunteers, the instructor and others in the program. The sessions feature a number of games, but Davies has also placed an emphasis on learning.
“I teach the kids to ride horses,” said Davies. “They have to steer, be able to get their balance, stand up in the stirrups, go over poles and the hope eventually is for them to be able to ride independently.”
The program is looking for additional students with physical disabilities, said Davies.
STAR Riding Inc. has also reached out to the community and has enlisted the help of the U.S. Army and U.S. Airforce through their Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program, who volunteer their time on Saturdays.
“We can’t do it without the volunteers,” said Davies. “We try to make it fun for everybody.”
For more information about STAR Riding Inc., visit starriding.org.