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Style Magazine

Ride and Shine

Jan 31, 2009 04:00PM ● By Super Admin

To those who have never been around horses, equine-assisted therapy may, on the surface, seem a little suspect. But those who have ever encountered a horse commonly describe the experience as “therapeutic,” which is why today equine facilitated therapy and adaptive riding is regularly practiced and frequently praised. Locally, Ride and Shine, an El Dorado County-based nonprofit, has benefited individuals with special needs since it was founded in 1996.

According to its Web site, the mission of Ride and Shine, a Premier Accredited Center for the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA), is to “provide therapeutic intervention to achieve increased balance, muscular control and attention skills, while providing exercise and enjoyment of an activity that will assist in the development of socialization skills and the enhancement of self-esteem.” As such, Ride and Shine uses trained horses to help disabled children with a variety of physical, emotional, social and cognitive impairments.

But what exactly is adaptive riding? Specifically, it is using specific horsemanship activities designed to help disabled individuals overcome targeted disabilities, which include muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, multiple sclerosis, emotional and learning disabilities, brain injuries and ADD, among several others. Because horseback riding moves a rider’s body rhythmically and similar to the human gait, physically disabled riders often increase their flexibility, balance and muscle strength, while the special relationship that forms between a horse and riders with cognitive and emotional limitations, often leads to increased confidence, patience and self-esteem.

Because the benefits of equine-assisted therapy are far-reaching, it is commonly endorsed as a purposeful support method to supervised medical care by therapists and mental health specialists from a variety of fields.

Ride and Shine hosts several fund-raising events throughout the year, including the Ride-a-Thon and Boot Scootin’ Boogie Dance. It also relies on the assistance of volunteers and welcomes online donations to help cover operation costs. Currently, Ride and Shine is not accepting horse donations, but will consider a feed lease for horses that need jobs. These horses need to be older (minimum 12 years) and meet various medical and physical requirements. Ideal equines for this program stand 15 to 15.3 hands. During the horse’s tenure at the ranch, it is fully monitored and cared for. Owners who donate their horse to the feed lease program may request its return at any time.

Naturally, the horses currently residing in Ride and Shine’s barn have met the careful standards set by the organization, are fully trained, gentle and have the appropriate personality suitable for the therapeutic work required by the organization’s adaptive riding program. Students are matched with the horse that best suits their individual needs and disabilities, whether it is to promote social interaction, increase attention span, develop balance and coordination, or strengthen weakened muscles. Methods may differ but the goal is always the same: to help others break through their limitations to live limitless lives – and to horse around, of course.

To learn more about Ride and Shine’s adaptive riding program, visit the organization online at, or call 530-676-1920.