We provide a therapeutic horseback riding program and equine-oriented activities for children and adults. We help our students achieve not only physical strength, but also gain self assurance, the ability to learn new skills, increased willingness to communicate and an overall better quality of life.
We welcome anyone with a desire to get involved, as a student, volunteer, or by donating a horse. We also have a need for riding supplies and contributions to help with the funding of our programs.
Find out what drives us to do what we do.
Volunteers are the foundation of the organization.
Heads Up Special Riders was established in 1990 by Anne Banse. She had previously been escorting a handicapped rider from the Princeton area to a program in Allentown, the closest facility with a program for disabled riders. To ease the complications of commuting, she decided to initiate a local program. Anne Banse and her friend Nan Agar approached Betty Higgins, owner of Hasty Acres Riding Club, to host the program.
Since 2013 this program has been run by Clare Russell who has revived and expanded the program to include Equine Assisted Psychotherapy including clients from Womanspace and also recovering addicts.
Heads Up Special Riders has a vital group of volunteers dedicated to the program, riders and horses
We are a not-for-profit organization with 501 c3 status.
Lessons are provided by a PATH Intl certified therapeutic riding instructor, a volunteer coordinator and trained volunteers. A fee is charged for each lesson. Each participant has individualized short- and long-term goals and objectives and a plan to obtain them. The instructor and the participant work together to develop these goals. Lessons are held once a week in sessions scheduled all year round. Riders participate in age appropriate, goal oriented activities both off and on the horse depending upon the needs and abilities of the individual participant.
Program participants include individuals with cerebral palsy, stroke, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, cystic fibrosis, learning disabilities, developmental disabilities, seizure disorders, visual impairments, hearing impairments, autism, head injuries, and emotional disabilities. The activities offered in the grooming and riding programs center on abilities rather than disabilities, with participants relating to each other as liable riders. This enhances opportunities for inclusion, and expands participants' confidence and sense of accomplishment.
Therapeutic riding is a dynamic treatment utilizing functional riding skills and the frequent, rhythmic, low amplitude movement of the horse to achieve specific physical, cognitive, and social/emotional goals. The non-mounted parts of any lesson enables participants to become comfortable with the horse. The ordered process of grooming and tacking the horse provides participants with opportunities to develop listening, thinking, planning, and motor abilities; while it challenges and stimulates their physical and emotional capabilities.
Physical benefits resulting from the therapeutic riding experience include: stretching; relaxation; strengthening; improvements in balance, coordination and specific movement patterns; mobilization of major muscle groups; and, increased postural control. Riding also stimulates many sensory modalities, including proprioceptor, tactile, auditory, visual, and vestibular. In addition, participation may enhance attention span, sequencing, organizational skills, motor planning, and the ability to follow multi-level directions.
The therapeutic riding venue also provides significant benefits to individuals with emotional and cognitive disabilities. All participants in therapeutic riding have the opportunity to bond with a large, responsive animal and become involved in activities that focus on self-improvement, teamwork, and control, rather than competition with other humans. The rider receives unconditional love from the horse he/she is working with. Human bonding with an animal, enhanced psychological wellness, pride in accomplishment, and increased self-esteem may also be achieved through participation in a variety of adaptive equine activities. This experience provides an opportunity to build a strong self-concept and encourages positive interpersonal and social interactions.
Each rider may require the assistance of up to four volunteers: a "leader" for the horse, two sidewalkers for the rider and an assistant. In addition, volunteers work with select participants in the grooming and preparation of horses before class. The therapeutic riding program is successful because a large corps of committed volunteers work long hours to provide this service. All volunteers participate in safety training and work under the supervision of the therapeutic riding instructor. Volunteers are assigned to specific program participants in order to foster the development of ongoing relationships that benefit the participant's therapeutic goals.