Volunteers add smiles to therapy riding

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CSI Media staff | March 27, 2015

With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer, but volunteering as little as one hour per week can change your life.  S.M.I.L.E.S.  — Special Methods In Learning Equine Skills — in Darien is looking for volunteers to assist with therapeutic horseback riding lessons. As a nonprofit organization, S.M.I.L.E.S. relies on the hard work and dedication of its volunteers.

S.M.I.L.E.S. offers equine-assisted programming for individuals of all ages with special needs and serves approximately 100 clients each week. Each of these clients requires one to three volunteers.  

A disability does not have to limit a person from riding horses. In fact, experiencing the motion of a horse can be therapeutic. Riding a horse rhythmically moves the rider's body in a manner similar to a human gait, so riders often show improvement in flexibility, balance and muscle strength. The unique relationship formed with the horse provides such benefits as increased confidence, patience and self-esteem. Volunteers and  clients often experience these benefits — oh, the smiles you will see.

The spring session begins April 6, but there are still plenty of opportunities to get involved. Opportunities include working with the horses and participants during their lessons. Or volunteers could offer facility and barn support, help with fundraising, special event committees or administrative support. Whatever participants' interests and talents, they can be put to good use.  No experience is required — training will be provided. The most valuable skills are compassion, a willingness to get involved and a positive attitude. Due to insurance regulations, volunteers must be 15 years of age or older.

To get started, visit SmilesTherapeutic Riding.org or call (262) 882-3470.

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