“There is something about the outside of a horse that is goodfor the inside of a man” a quote attributed to two different men; Winston Churchill or Will Rogers depending on the reference. Regardless of the origins of the quote, the truthfulness is observed everyday in poignant moments at one of the many PATH-Intl therapeutic riding centers across the world.
These moments when the outside of a horse affects the inside of a man or woman of any age , a child or youth from a variety of life situations are a regular occurrence at Whitewater Therapeutic and Recreational Riding Association (WTRRA), Lemhi County’s Premier Accredited Therapeutic Riding Center.
Picture a strong man, an outfitter, who he earned his livelihood with horses. Picture a man who loved and enjoyed horses not just for the seasonal income they afforded him but a man who respected them, admired their strength, appreciated their power, but also calmed to their touch and smell, talked to them as he groomed and tacked them. Maybe he occasionally used a strong word or two out of frustration. Picture a man who smiled as he watched his children and grandchildren enjoy the lifestyle he helped provide. These descriptions could fit many of the men, or women, in Lemhi County. But, this man is Richard Rumary. Some of you know him, his wife Marietta, his children or a grandchild.
Whitewater came to know Richard when he joined the organization as a volunteer in 2009. His experience with horses and tack was extremely valuable as new programs were developed. His love of horses and children, his empathy for adults with disabilities endeared him to the instructors and volunteers. The horses responded to his touch. For several years Richard was a lead volunteer, able and capable to handle any aspect of volunteering in an equine assisted activity or therapy.
Then Richard’s life began to change. Slowly, but obviously, instructors and volunteers became concerned. Richard’s hands shook making it difficult for him to tighten the cinch, his legs seemed unsteady as he led a horse or provided side support for a rider. There were other concerns. Richard had difficulty remembering how to halter a horse. Tying a quick release knot, once performed without thought or planning, became a foreign and difficult assignment: Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s taking their toll.
Richard is still involved in therapeutic riding at WTRRA; but, he is on instead of in front of or beside the horse. The picture has changed. Picture a man whose hands shake. Tears of joy come to his eyes as he is assisted into the saddle from the mounting ramp. Picture a man whose body responds naturally to the horse’s movement (no need to ask his memory for help here; the body remembers) Picture a man smiling as a peer (WTRRA male volunteer) rides beside him in conversation about outfitting, elk, mountain lions and horses.
Picture “the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man”. Picture Jasper, (a sorrel gelding donated by Cyndie LaFourcade) showing once again that “the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a great man”. Richard Rumary, WTRRA thanks you for honoring the mission of the organization and choosing to participate first as a volunteer and then as our life changed choosing WTRRA again as a rider.
For additional information on the benefits of therapeutic riding contact Whitewater Therapeutic Riding at 208-469-0617 www.whitewatertherapeutic.com or www.pathintl.org
A Therapy Horse for all Seasons of the Heart
By M. Hevel
When the stars line up just right, something wonderful happens. It began when Robert and Portia Sue Owens of Moondance Ranch accepted a one- week-old miniature horse in trade for training a horse for a client’s granddaughter. For a brief moment, the allure of entering a young miniature horse stallion in the competitive world of national horse shows beckoned.
Tragedy struck in 1996. Extensive surgery for an undescended testicle ended Cheyenne’s show career and use as a stud. Robert and Portia make a living by filling their stalls with training horses and were feeling a bit desperate when fate stepped in.
In our small town in Idaho, volunteers, staff and residents involved with the WTRRA Equine Program for the Elderly were frustrated. At the time, people were driven from The Discovery Care Center by van to the local fairgrounds. We were unable to transport all those who wanted to participate, plus many that could not travel due to their fragile health. In an attempt to meet these needs, our staff took adult horses to the care center. This still meant moving people to visit the horses outside and if the weather was bad, their equine experience “Why not a miniature horse?” Joyce asked. “We can take it inside the care center.” A guiding star led us to the Moondance Ranch in Oregon. As Portia wrote, “A few e-mails, a handy transport and off he went to the Whitewater Therapeutic Riding & Recreation Association. My worst-money horse deal turned into the best-heart horse deal.”
Cheyenne, renamed Tater Tot, exemplifies not only the role of a therapy horse for the elderly but also the youth in our community. Although tiny in statue, his huge heart embodies the spirit of our therapy programs. He has opened the world of horses for ages two to ninety two.
By first introducing children to Tater Tot, who is nearer their height than a regular horse, we eliminate their initial fear of size. This process also works with adults who are hesitant to approach the larger-size animal. This method makes for a smoother transition to our therapy program, where the individual is mounted on a full-size horse.
At The Discovery Care Center each week, Tater Tot initiates both emotional and physical participation from the elderly and the staff. Memory lines to the past are established as the elderly revive and relive their associations with horses. Tater Tot senses and responds to their needs for nurturing. When he approaches a person, he places his head on their lap or stomach. Eyes close. Peace embraces horse and human. Tater Tot continues to amaze us with his timely departure from each individual. For some it’s a short gentle greeting while with others he lingers. Some of the residents delight in practicing an old or new skill . . . driving. Settled in Tater Tot’s cart, they ask and he responds by pulling them down the hallways of the care center. For some, it’s an outing with horse and cart . . . driving in downtown Salmon. Others desire his company from their sitting chair or the bedside; a time to talk of earlier years while he listens with an open heart. Moments of tenderness are found as he nuzzles a hand that reaches for his unconditional love. Hearts find a new melody and souls breathe harmony.
On some star studded night, I’m sure Tater Tot heard a whisper on the wind . . …………
As a shining star in Salmon, Idaho, you are fulfilling your destiny as a therapy horse for all
A Dream Trots into Reality
By M. Hevel
Hooves touched the soft earth in a rhythmic beat, wooden cart wheels creaked, family voices played tag with the warm June breeze . . . a page from the annual Ride-A-Thon at Twin Peaks Ranch.
A halo of blonde hair framed the tan face of my four-year-old grandson. “Grandma, is it almost my turn?”
“Almost. When the horse stops and the woman calls us, I’ll help you into the cart.”
Tucked into my hand, his fingers gently tapped my palm. “Grandma?”
“Do they step on a brake to stop?”
“No, honey, it’s like when you’re horseback riding with Grandpa or me and we pull back on the reins . . .”
“And I say, whoa.”
And then, Sam’s long awaited moment. I watched horse and cart, Sam and driver move in a large circle. Puffed clouds drifted across their blue arena. Memories of a young girl in love with horses flowed through my mind. Sam waved and smiled wide as the cart rolled to a stop.
“Did you see how fast I went?”
I nodded. “You looked great.”
We thanked the tall, soft-spoken woman and turned to leave. “Aren’t you going for a ride?”
“I thought you were only taking children.” I said.
“Anyone can come, just climb aboard.” Her smile and invitation was all I needed. Sam’s mother walked him back to the bleachers. I stepped into one of my dreams.
My fascination with a cart and horse began as a young girl when I saw my first sulky race at the fair. “Someday, was a mantra that tugged at my heart every time I saw one of those races. And now . . . almost there!
“Would you like to drive?”
My heart quickened. “Really?”
“Sure.” She handed me the reins. Exhilaration swept through me. It wasn’t a sulky race, but I was driving a trotter in a marvelous two beat gait! I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. Anyone who has felt that beautiful shift into a oneness with their activity or the innate connection with an animal knows the electric charge that flowed through my hands and body. I shivered with pure joy!
“You’re a natural,” she said.
I was hooked! That evening I wrote to a friend.
I tried to reach you by phone this evening, then remembered you’re still traveling. So, a letter will have to convey the exciting news! It’s late, so this will be short. I’ll follow up with details later.
Not long ago, you and I talked about our desire to revitalize our senior years. Little did I know what was around the corner for me! I thought of you today when my long ago dream of driving a horse and cart was granted! (I was at a fundraiser for the equine therapeutic program in our community) Later that day, I was introduced to the program coordinator. To make a long story short, she asked if I’d be interested in learning how to drive. I think the hillsides echoed my “YES” and the meadow flowers smiled their approval.
My motto for life after sixty- five, throw open the window of opportunity and say . . .Why not!
Hope your visit with Jean and her family provided a rainbow of memories! Give me a call when you get home.
Around the bend of my dream was another exciting chapter. My husband and I joined others volunteering for the Whitewater Therapeutic Riding and Recreation Association in our community. I obtained my NARAH instructor’s certification. What a joy to extend the invitation for others to experience the pleasure of driving a horse and cart. Maybe another young girl’s dream will trot into reality.
Ballet on Horseback
By M. Hevel
The Whitewater Therapeutic Recreation & Riding Association would like to express their appreciation to the Idaho Commission on the Arts for recognizing equine vaulting as a performing art. Their generous grant funded our model project for Youth At Risk in Salmon, Idaho. The door was opened for nine students to experience the grace and beauty of vaulting on horseback.
They began by walking the horse then running with the same rhythm and leg movement of the horse. Games were introduced to work with the horse at a walk, trot and canter. Besides aerobic exercise, they developed motor skills, body awareness, spatial orientation, rhythm and concentration. Trust and relaxation came with gentle exercises while on the horses’ back. They learned patience, social skills and teamwork while observing and assisting their team mates.
Growing can be a struggle whether you’re two or ninety two. What a thrill to watch and hear about the positive changes these young people experienced during their vaulting school. On the day of their performance, a woman sitting in the bleachers began to cry. She spoke to a person nearby. “I’ve never seen my son perform until today . . . he’s always been in trouble everywhere else.”
Another youth was at a stalemate with her counseling therapy. After the vaulting school, there was a breakthrough in her sessions. Both her psychiatrist and her parent contribute her progress to the vaulting program.
As children they learned to stand, walk and run. As young people, they’re learning to walk, trot and run in partnership with a horse and their teammates. In harmony, they gain confidence and the courage to reach out to others in positive ways. As a follow-up to their program, they will present their vaulting video to youth groups in Salmon.
A rainbow of tender, caring emotions arched over the arena the day of their vaulting performance. Whispers of pride and support caressed each performer.
“Give me a high five!”
“You were wonderful!”
“I did it!”
You did it with flying colors and we salute your ballet on horseback!
Believe in yourself . . . I Can’t becomes I Can
By M. Hevel
It’s September in Salmon, Idaho . . . leaves show a hint of autumn. A new season unfolds with bright colors offering a renewal of hopes and dreams. For people of all ages, seasonal changes create an opportunity to believe in yourself . . . and so it was for Heather McPherson.
During her growing years, Heather struggled with both physical and mental disabilities. Her tight heel cords and calf muscles made walking difficult. Another challenge for Heather came in the form of the cognitive problems that created frustrations in school.
“Fat lip.” “Retard.”
Taunting words shot at Heather hit their target in her tender heart during elementary school. “Sometimes I was real sad, “she said,” I walked away to be alone. And sometimes I was so mad I wanted to sock them real hard.” She smiled. “But I knew I’d be sent to the principal’s office and he was a huge man . . . too scary. I had a hard time in school . . . math and stuff like that. Writing was very hard, my name looked too big and too messy. I remember thinking over and over . . . I can’t. I can’t do it.”
A breeze lifted her golden brown hair. At times during her school years, resource teachers lifted her spirits. They opened the door for her to experience the joy of success, no matter how small. The words I can whispered softly to Heather.
As she grew up, another nurturing thread remained strong. It all began when she was eight years old. A twenty-seven year old cow horse trotted into her life. Saturdays were the highlight of her week, she and her horse became one as they rode in the pasture. For those glorious moments, she was free of her disabilities.
Five years later, sadness struck in March before the ice thawed. Searching for something to eat, her horse started across the ice-covered pond. He slipped and fell. Struggled to get up, lay back exhausted. “Later that day,” Heather said, “I glanced out the window and saw an animal lying down on the pond. I thought it was a cow. I looked through binoculars, the animal looked like my horse. I ran to the barn for a pail of oats. My folks drove into the driveway just as I started toward the pond.
I cried out, My horse is hurt.
Wait with your mother, I’ll call the vet. Dad said.
But he’s my responsibility.
My mother took my hand. Heather, you need to wait with me. I guess my mother didn’t want me to see him die.” Another loss was felt that summer when her parents divorced. “I lived with my dad for seven years,” she said. Once again, a single day became a highlight of her week. Every Thursday she rode a horse at the stable near her dad’s home. Heather’s worries or upsets dissolved as she and her horse moved in rhythmic harmony.
At age twenty-one, an invitation for growth and change came again when Heather moved back to Salmon. Her mother found her a job as an aide at the Child Development Center. To herself Heather said, “I can do this.” She told the director, Joyce Scott, “I miss the love of my life of riding horses.” It wasn’t long before Heather joined the Whitewater Therapeutic Riding and Recreation Association. Life was full . . . she groomed, cared for horses and made new friends. She became a horse leader during classes once a week for the younger children. “I saw their happiness riding a horse.” Heather said, “I knew the joy they felt.”
Heather went to Special Olympics several times and came home with a first place in showmanship, a second in Western Equitation and a first in English Equitation. She joined the WTRRA Board and became active in the fund raising. When CDC closed its doors, Heather found a job in the pre-school program with children from age three to five. They have similar disabilities to Heather’s.
She started as a recipient of community resources. Now Heather helps others learn how to cut and paste and most of all write their name . . . “not too messy or too big.” ‘I can’ nudges another child.
Heather has beautifully demonstrated that when you believe in yourself I can’t becomes I can.
Cocoon to Butterfly
By M. Hevel
Through the years, Calleen’s learning disabilities created and ongoing sense of failure. Beneath the wrappings of fear dwelt a dream, “Someday a horse will stand in my backyard.”
In her early twenties, Calleen Smith took a step toward her dream when she joined the Whitewater Therapeutic Riding Recreation Association program for adults with developmental disabilities. With each passing year, instructors watched with admiration as Calleen’s equine partners nurtured her belief in herself. The wrappings of fear melted away and Calleen spread her wings. We shed tears with her over her frustration in learning to canter. We cheered as she walked to the stand and received the Special Olympic gold medal for Western Equitation. We welcomed her as a WTRRA board member and benefited from her skills as a volunteer. She generously gave eight hours a week where she was a woman of many roles such as: assisting in hauling horses, grooming and tacking, helping other riders during lessons and participating in fund raising activities. As time went on, Calleen expanded her equine skills by learning to drive a horse and cart.
Little did Calleen know when she shared her dream with Denise Roy that a new pathway would open for her dream horse to drift a little closer to her backyard. It wasn’t long before one summer day was etched in a golden memory for Calleen. The soft rays of an evening sun bathed the pasture with slender lines of light. Four horses cantered toward the distant foothills. Unable to take her eyes from the sorrel with a white blaze on her forehead, Calleen watched and felt the spirit of this Quarter Horse as she moved in a graceful gait, hooves pounding a rhythmic beat. Calleen listened as her heart whispered, That’s the one.
A week later, Calleen hugged her three-year-old mare for the first time. “When I let her go,” she said, “Stormy just stood quietly by my side.” Two words danced across her heart . . . She’s mine!
The sun is setting over the mountains but a new dawn awaits the winged spirits of a young horse and her partner, Calleen Smith.
National Geographic Photographer Meets Tater Tot
By M. Hevel
A handshake is often the introduction to a performer. For Karine Aigner, Senior Photo Editor with National Geographic Kids Magazine, meeting this Salmon celebrity was a pat to Tater Tot’s head. This equine star is a miniature horse that has been touching the hearts of WTRRA’s clients for around fourteen years.
It all began when Kitson Flynn, Freelance Equine Journalist, sent out a call for story ideas for National Geographic Kid’s Magazine. Susan Dudask, an Equine Journalist in Salmon, told Kitson about Tater Tot. Kitson approached her editor. The story was accepted and Karine Aigner arrived in Salmon. At the Child Development Center, she photographed children grooming Tater Tot. Later in the day, Karine took pictures while Jane Burke, Tater Tot’s handler and friend, led our equine physician on his rounds. Tender moments glowed for the residents at the Discovery Care Center.
Thanks to Steve Lish, Administrator at the Discovery Care Center, Tater Tot walks the hallways in the comfort of new red tennis shoes. “Tater Tot is the best thing that has happened for the Discovery Care Center,” Steve Lish said.
As the camera shutter closes; each picture captures Tater Tot’s enduring gift of unconditional love.
IDAHO FALLS/SUNDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2014
Whitewater therapeutic riding:
‘Any day on a horse is a good day’
By LAURA ZUCKERMAN
SALMON – Once a week, Richard “Dick” Rumary and his wife, Marietta, travel to an indoor horse arena south of downtown Salmon.
They make the trek so Rumary can experience the same pleasure riding he began experiencing before the degenerative effects of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
The former outfitter, now in his 70s, once donated his time and expertise at the Whitewater Therapeutic and Recreational Riding Association where today he rides with the help of volunteers and trained instructors.
Rumary is one of dozens of Lemhi County residents who participate in the program that serves the disabled, at-risk youth and abused and neglected children, as well as the elderly, through equine-assisted activities and therapies.
This year, Whitewater marks 20 years of providing a service that relies on a dedicated band of instructors, scores of volunteers and 15 “bomb-proof” horses.
The association stands out from other accredited riding centers in that it is funded entirely through grants and donations. Its seven certified instructors are not paid and participants are not charged mandatory fees, said Joyce Scott, advanced instructor and co-founder of Whitewater.
“No one is turned away – ever – for an inability to pay. People who participate in the program make donations to whatever degree they can,” Scott said.
Whitewater was started in 1994. At the time, Scott was a developmental specialist in the Salmon area home of Kerri Ellis. Ellis wanted her special-needs children to have the experience of riding horses, an activity steeped in the traditions and pastimes of the Lemhi and Salmon valleys.
During the early years, participants and their mounts met at the fairgrounds north of Salmon, after Scott and others spent a good bit of their mornings hauling mostly borrowed horses.
“It was definitely a grassroots effort,” Scott said. “People loaned us horses or pasture and we would haul horses that were boarded all over town. Many times, we would get home at night in the dark after delivering the stock.”
Grants and gifts paid for land, and ultimately, an indoor arena. But donations of time and good will – in addition to money – have accounted for the association’s ability to thrive. Many such riding centers fold after seven to 10 years, Scott said.
“Without volunteers, we (Whitewater) just don’t run,” she said.
The program seeks to boost confidence, agility, cognitive ability and overall functioning. There are 65 to 90 participants in each six-to-eight week session, which are scheduled four times a year. Each class of four to six riders runs about one hour. There is a half hour break between classes to prepare the horses for the next group of participants.
Katie Cooper, an agricultural education instructor at Salmon High School, county 4-H leader and full-time mom, is lead instructor and horse manager at the facility. She downplayed summers that can see her devote as many as 40 hours weekly to Whitewater.
“We operate by the graciousness of the community, and as instructors, we get as much out of it as the participants do,” she said. “It’s hard work, but it’s so rewarding for all of us that we keep coming back week after week to see the differences we make in people’s lives and which they make in our lives.”
Marietta Rumary knows something about that. For her husband, every day on a horse is a good day.
“He comes alive and he’s himself again when he jumps on that horse,” she said. “It just keeps some of his loves alive by being able to ride once a week, by being able to do something normal. It’s just wonderful.”