A focus on horsemanship.

That’s where Kim Davies, the Star Riding Inc. program coordinator and instructor has placed her emphasis. The therapeutic program for people with disabilities is letting the program’s participants take a more active role, gaining practical experience.

“I’ve tried to get the kids and the adults who are participating in the program, more involved with the horses,” said Davies. “Some of the riders are grooming, other riders are tacking up the horses, which they never did before.”

The students are improving their motor skills, coordination and balance by learning how to ride, said Davies.

“They’re not just being led around,” said Davies. “They’re learning how to be horsemen. They’re learning how to post, how to hold the reins and steer and how to use their legs, so that’s really important.”

Among Davies’ objectives for the program include having students participate in the 2014 Special Olympics and the Aiken Horse Show in the Woods. She believes having the students participate in horse shows is a great way to build confidence and self-esteem.

“They’re becoming horsemen, actually learning how to take care of the horse and what’s entailed,” said Davies. “I’m teaching them the same things I would an able bodied person. When they’re on a horse, you’re not going to be able to tell what their disability is, they are riders. They’ll be going to the shows with able bodied people.”

The Aiken Bluegrass Festival organizers presented STAR Riding Inc. Saturday with a check for $25,000.

“It (the Aiken Bluegrass Festival) helps us so much,” said Davies. “We wouldn’t have been able to have gone on. We would have had to have closed our doors without their support.”

STAR Riding is also in need of volunteers, but it’s not just those who will participate by leading the horses or walking beside them during the riding sessions, said Davies. Many of the volunteers at Saturday’s session were from the U.S. Air Force.

“We need volunteers to help us with the Oyster Roast, helping us get sponsors and advertisers for the program,” said Davies. “We need people to help us with our website and the Facebook page. We need people to come out and help people bathe horses, clean tack and someone to exercise those horse before the lessons.”

Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004.