Our Community – Accessible Horseback Riding

Our Community – Accessible Horseback Riding


[MUSIC…] ANNOUNCER: Our voices. Our stories. Our Community. [MUSIC…FADES…] “People say that what we’re all
seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what
we’re really seeking. I think that what
we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.” Joseph Campbell. NARRATOR: PARDS, which
stands for Peace Area Riding for the
Disabled Society, is one of the few full time
Therapeutic Riding centers in all of Canada. But what is Therapeutic Riding? We went to PARDS to
find out for ourselves. JENNIFER DOUGLAS: My
name is Jennifer Douglas, I’m the Executive
Director at PARDS. I started my career here as
the new facility coordinator, to start us on the path of
moving from our old facility to building our
brand new facility. One of our largest
goals is to ensure that everybody that
requires our service has access to our service. So, not turning a rider
away for any reason is incredibly important to us,
and a value that, organization wide, we hold very dear. PARDS therapeutic
centers mission is to provide high
quality innovative equine insisted therapies to
Peace Country residents. It’s an extremely broad mission. And what it looks like for
each of those Peace Country residents that comes through our
doors is completely different. PAIGE KERCKAERT: My
name is Paige Kerckaert and I’ve been coming to parts
for about three to four years now. And I am both a rider, and
I’ve been in youth leadership. JENNIFER DOUGLAS: Paige joined
the youth leadership program when it was really
still quite new. She came in with very
sketchy attendance at school, struggling. Struggling to try anything,
even if it wasn’t new. She avoided situations. Groups. Pretty much everything. She became a homebody,
and really just didn’t have the
coping skills to help her move on to the next piece. SHARON KERCKAERT: I
am Sharon Kerckaert. My daughter is a
therapeutic rider. At that time Paige was newly
diagnosed with social anxiety, and unfortunately she
wasn’t going back to school at that time. She was in junior high. And wasn’t able to
physically or mentally participate in a
public school system. So we were looking for
different avenues of therapy to help Paige. We didn’t live too
far from PARDS, so I phoned one day to see
what exactly PARDS was, and what their mission was. And I found out some
very interesting news. That PARDS offered
both Therapeutic Riding and public riding lessons
for children and adults in the Grand Prairie area. JENNIFER DOUGLAS: We’re located
about five hours Northwest of Edmonton, Alberta. We’re very proud to be the
only full time therapeutic Riding Centre in Alberta,
one of only three across all of Canada. It’s important to us to be
accessible within our walls as well as without. Hence our decision to locate
just south of our Grand Prairie city limits. Back in 2003, before
my time here, the board recognized that we were
having to turn away some of the riders that
wanted to access our services. So they started
figuring out what our dream home would look like,
and in 2013 we broke ground for the new facility. And then in 2017 we actually
moved into the new facility. So it was definitely
a long process. It was a lot of people
coming together, deciding that this was an important
thing for our community, and making it happen. In our past facility, the
arena was 50 feet by 90 feet. So there were certain
horse activities that just weren’t safe
to be doing there. And the group size for
lessons was limited to three. To keep it safe. So when we designed
this facility, we made sure that the
arena was a standard size for competitions, so we could
offer those opportunities. So it’s 100 by 200 feet. But we also implemented
a divider curtain, so we can divide that arena. So we have two 100
by 100 foot arenas, and we can do concurrent lessons
with still up to six riders in a safe environment. So we quadrupled our
capacity right off the bat just with the size of
the arena that have. For every rider that
comes through the door, we start off with an assessment. And within that assessment
is a conversation about what that rider sees as success. There are contraindications
to riding. Sometimes that can
be a weight limit. Sometimes that can be
just the instability that makes it unsafe
for volunteers if a rider were to
come off a horse. Although having said
that, I’ve never met people more motivated to
reach a goal than the riders that walk through our doors. NARRATOR: After
the break, we talk to Jen and some of the other
staff about how PARDS can serve such a diverse clientele. Our Community will
return after the break. ANNOUNCER: We now
return to Our Community. ROBIN BOUDREAU: OK, my
name’s Robin Boudreau. I’m the senior
instructor here a PARDS. We’re here in the barn. There’s a couple
of horses in here with us, and a miniature pony. We have 25 stalls in this
barn on the PARDS side, and then we have 25 over on
the other side of the barn for our boarded horses. So this is where I spend most
of my day, is in the barn here with the horses and the
clients and the instructors, and selecting the horses for
the program here as well. They need to love people. Obviously. There’s a long– I have like 101 questions
to ask when we’re looking at horses for the program. And generally too
they don’t just come. We don’t just pick
them up bring them here and they jump into the program. They go through about 30
to 90 days of training. Just getting used
to the facility and all of the different
people handling them. We work a lot with
volunteers, so our lessons are dependant on the
volunteers coming in, and the horses have to be
able to adapt to whoever’s handling them as well. So we all need to make
sure we’re handling them the same way. They have to have a
certain build, as well. So for someone who has
a vision impairment, I can’t put them on
a really little horse that’s going to move really
quickly and be super choppy. That’s going to be really
uncomfortable for that person. So I need to make
sure that horse is, you know, big
and round and we’re going to be balanced
when we’re on the horse and not feeling
like you’re gonna lose your rider off the side
if they do a quick movement. Right? So. Brushing the horses. That’s building that bond
with the horse as well. So that’s huge. That’s a huge part of riding
and what we do here at PARDS is building those bonds. And how about his belly? Can you brush his belly here? We focus on what
their abilities are, and then we build off of that. So it’s not what they can’t do. It’s what they can do. And then we just build. We build from there and we set
them goals that are attainable. We’re gonna wait to trot. OK? Let’s go to the red
cone, and then whoa. OK, we’re standing here in
the mounting area at PARDS. This is our ramp. So the most common
piece of equipment we use to get our
riders on the horses. So it’s about hip level here. So it brings the rider
up nice and high level with the horse’s back. We just go down to the
bottom of the ramp, wheel the chair up to the
top, or walk with the rider up to the top, and then they’re
at that nice comfortable level to get on their horse
safely and smoothly. For anyone that needs a
little bit of extra help getting on the
horse, and we’re not able to physically
lift them on, we have a mechanical sling lift. So that’s just-it goes
under the rider’s legs, and then we can use the sling to
lift them to the horse’s height level. And then we’ll just
slide them over on top of the horse’s back, and
then down on into the saddle. So Yeah that is another piece
of equipment that we use. And then we also have
stairs for anyone that’s just able to climb
right up onto a horse, than we’ll just walk the
horse over to the stairs, and they’ll just climb on. JENNIFER DOUGLAS:
Our rider Tristan has significant
challenges that he’s had to deal with for his life. He has gone through his
childhood looking like a child, and now he’s in his adulthood,
and still looks like a child. I see him even talking or
visiting with other people as they wait for their
lessons, and people just they talk young to him. Tristan’s an adult, and he wants
to be treated like an adult. And the communication
piece is huge. He’s hearing
impaired, so there’s so limited opportunities
for him to truly engage. His parents are
amazing individuals. SAMANTHA: I’m Samantha, and
this is our son Tristan. And this is– TRENT: Trent. SAMANTHA: Tristan’s dad. TRENT: CDLS. SAMANTHA: Tristan was born with
Cornelia de Lange syndrome. CDLS for short. And it’s basically
a growing disorder. And there’s different
levels of it. He’s moderate. Along with it comes the-he’s
deaf, of course, and his size, and some muscle
issues come with it. TRENT: Tristan has been riding
here at PARDS since about 2000, so about 17 years now. He’s been out here. He’s just about 23 years old. Don’t let the size fool you. JENNIFER DOUGLAS: We
have a volunteer, Carol. She asked his aide
how to sign good job. And so in the lesson when
they were doing some activity, and she decided it
was appropriate, she signed good job to him. And his face just lit up,
and he started laughing, and then he started signing
100 miles a minute to her, and she had no idea what he
was saying, because she only knew good job. That was so impactful
for her that now she’s considering enroling in
a sign language course. You don’t necessarily
always realize how important communication
is for somebody that doesn’t have all the ways
to communicate that you do. NARRATOR: Our Community
will return after the break. ANNOUNCER: We now
return to Our Community. NARRATOR: From the
moment they walk into the entrance
of PARDS, riders are provided with everything
they need to succeed. We asked Robin to
show us around. ROBIN BOUDREAU: This
is our rider lounge, so this is where we
meet our riders when they come for their lessons
here at our facility. We have boots here, and
we have helmets here as well for everyone to use. A size toddler all the
way up to extra large. So we have equipment
for everyone here. We’ll head over through these
doors here, into the barn, and I’ll show you guys around. So we’ll just go
around the corner here, and I’ll introduce you
to some of the horses. We have three horses
in the barn today, and one of our miniature
ponies, Hot Wheels. And this is Cletus, here. We match our riders
to the horses based on their size and abilities. So for someone
who’s tall, they’re going to ride a
horse like Cletus. OK. Keep holding your shoulder. Make him back up. Touch him a little if
you need to on the chest. There. NARRATOR: Paige
wanted to tell us a little more about
how riders are paired with the
perfect horse for them. PAIGE KERCKAERT: I have
changed horses in the past, but as of now I’m using the same
horse for most of my sessions. His name is Molson, and
he’s a Canadian breed. He’s actually named
after the Molson beer. I am a slightly larger
person, so I fit better on him as to some of the
smaller horses. They usually base us
on weight and height, so for a better
fit on the horses. I do feel very connected. It’s almost like I have a best
friend that I can basically rely on. He’s always there for me. If I feel down I
just kind of, I get to talk to him during the day. NARRATOR: The results
speak for themselves. But why does Jen
feel that horses are such an amazing
tool in helping with personal development? JENNIFER DOUGLAS: They
all love the horse, so it’s never the horse’s
fault. So seeing these youth be accountable for the results. There’s no fight to it. The horse is perfect
in their eyes. So it’s always to them,
what can I do differently? What could I do better? Part of it is us
building into the program the development of
the relationship with a specific horse before
you start those activities. So everybody’s got
some skin in the game. TIARA CHAMBERS:
I’m Tiara Chambers I’m the program
coordinator with PARDS. The impact is
really cool to see. Horses to kids or adults
there’s that piece of gratitude there and trust. So for this 12 to 1600 pound
animal to come up to you and be like, hey, I want you to
be my human, can we hang out? It’s a really cool
factor for kids and depending on what they’ve
gone through personally you get different reactions. Some people have that
like, aw, that’s so cool, and excitement that
they could do that. Others that we’ve
seen in the programs have literally dropped
to their knees crying, they’ve never ever
resourced that sense of trust or companionship
that quick with something. ROBIN BOUDREAU: And then we
have our littlest horse here Hot Wheels. He’s a miniature horse. So he’s only about
three feet high. And he’s used in our
cart driving program. JENNIFER DOUGLAS: It was
amazing and eye opening for me to experience first hand being
able to watch that lesson and see the engagement. When you’re in a
wheelchair, for example, you’re looking up at
everybody all of the time. That’s just how it is. So for that rider to be on the
horse and able to look down, it’s impactful for them,
and it’s truly impactful to experience just seeing it. Like I had mentioned, the
horses are so intuitive. They just are able
to recognize what it is that those riders
need specifically for them, and be different in
each different lesson. Dogs are awesome, I bring my
dog to work with me every day, and she engages with the
riders, and they love that, but the horse is so
much more interactive. Josh is one of my
favourite riders. You’re not supposed to
have favourites, but I do. He has been diagnosed
with autism. He has about five to 10 words
that he’s able to communicate. And horse is one of his words. Josh started out riding. Riding the horse. And then he became– he grew up. He got super tall, and just
didn’t have that core balance, so that it was safe for
our volunteers in the event that he were to
come off the horse. But then his family experienced
the next set of challenges with Joshua’s diagnosis, and
he started having seizures. And seizures are something that
are contraindication to riding. Even cart driving. Even though you can’t
sit down and have a conversation with
him, he has no problem letting you know
what it is he needs, and it was to widen his
world outside of home life. You know, he’s got phenomenal
parents and very supportive. But he just wanted some
more engagement than that. PARDS ground driving program was
developed as a result of Josh. Josh walks behind
the horse, steers, listens to the audible
cues of his instructor. INSTRUCTOR: Around the front. Easy. Careful, Josh. JENNIFER DOUGLAS: All
of the same benefits that he would get in a
traditional cart driving, or even mounted riding program. DONNA VAN VEEN: My
name is Donna Van Veen. This is my son Josh Van
Veen, sitting beside me. Because he is
non-verbal he will not be responding to the questions,
I will be responding. Like other kids
go to gymnastics. Other kids go to archery. Other kids go to
whatever they go to. Josh could never
go to those things. And so PARDS has always
been a place he could go. Josh goes once a
week an rides horses. You know, and so that has value. Just that that’s
a one normal thing in a life that is filled
with different things. In most places we’re judged
by what we bring to the table. And if it’s not what other
people see as valuable, then we’re judged as
being less valuable. And that is not true here. They look at Josh and what
he brings to the table is what he brings to the
table, and he has strengths and he has weaknesses
like everyone else. And here that’s fine. JENNIFER DOUGLAS:
Josh needs to be here. And he wants to be here. So now he’s a rider. He’s the reason we
created multiple programs. He’s a donor and a volunteer. So for somebody
that has 10 words, he’s created his own engagement. And I just, I love him. TRENT: I call it the PARDS glow. You come here, and
it’s a warmer feeling. And it’s not just because
it’s a warm environment, it’s because the people here
are always above and beyond. They always go farther
than the general people. So it’s a really warm,
satisfying environment. SHARON KERCKAERT: I’m
totally on a high. I can’t believe
that Paige actually agreed to be interviewed
today, and she did such a wonderful job. PAIGE KERCKAERT: I did
have anxiety issues. I still do. But whenever I’m
here, they almost don’t even seem to
surface, because I feel so comfortable and
safe around both the riders, the instructors, and the horses. SHARON KERCKAERT:
PARDS has actually given Paige back
her self-esteem. It’s given her self
a sense of self-worth and belonging once again. She forgot what
her problems were, and she totally felt free. So for one hour a
week, Paige was Paige. Paige was the child
that I knew again. NARRATOR: Tristan’s family
echoes these sentiments. TRENT: Soccer, hockey and
badminton are probably not an option for him this size. Size wise. And maybe some coordination. But since he’s been riding here
at PARDS the kinds of things that he’s been doing that have
just built his social skills, and have build his balance
and all the rest of it. And it’s just skyrocketed. SAMANTHA: Confidence. TRENT: Yes. His time away from Mom and Dad
and some time of his own just to build his own personality,
and build his own character. So, yeah it’s a
pretty good place. It makes me pretty happy. I enjoy the glow more
than him, I think. DONNA VAN VEEN: To
have a place to come where he is viewed as a human. And not as a defective
human, just as a human. I don’t see it ever changing. I don’t see us ever having
a time when Josh doesn’t come regularly to PARDS. Because it matters
so much to him. He is functionally non-verbal,
but one of the few words he can say clearly is horse. Because he just loves
coming here so much. So I don’t see
that ever changing. NARRATOR: Producer
director, Rew Jones. Director of photography
Patrick O’Connor. Sound recordist, Ezra Wood. Editors, Patrick O’Connor,
Andrew Antonello. Integrated described video
specialist, Emily Harding. Narrator, Jim Van Horne. Special thanks to volunteers,
staff, and riders of PARDS. Jim Krysko. Production supervisor,
Janice Sivitilli. Director of
production, Cara Nye. Director, programming
Brian Perdue. Vice president Programming
& Production, John Melville. President and CEO,
David Errington. Copyright 2018
Accessible Media Inc.

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