- Sponsorship -

Therapeutic Riding Builds Students’ Self Esteem

On the first day of school, several students at Thornapple Kellogg McFall and Page elementaries had one question for teacher Jill Pilecki: “When are we going to go horseback riding at Camp Manitou-Lin?”

“They absolutely love it and count down the days until we go,” says Pilecki, who takes the lower elementary cognitively impaired students riding. Forty students in grades K-12 participate in the program at the camp in Middleville.

Teachers and parents love the classes for their long list of benefits. Riding helps strengthen spine and pelvic muscles, improve posture and coordination and increase joint mobility, Pilecki says.

Emotional gains also are made. Horseback riding gives students a feeling of control, a sense of accomplishment and increased self-esteem, Pilecki says. “Therapeutic riding provides a calm and relaxing experience for students who may otherwise have high anxiety and emotional difficulties,” she says.

The smiles of the students on the horses make it clear they enjoy the activity. For Andrew Smith, it’s his favorite part of school. “It makes me feel happy,” he says.Matthew Lehman waits to ride Blaze while instructor Ardith Turpin does a safety check

How the class works

Grooming tasks, which teach students to be nice and gentle, are part of the session. Saddling up shows them how to do steps in order. Getting on the horse is the hardest part. A stool is placed by the horse’s side, and students climb up two risers to reach the horse. Certified therapeutic riding instructor Ardith Turpin and volunteers help lift the students up.

“Handsome and tall” and “eyes up” are among Turpin’s directions for students when they ride. These commands remind them to sit up straight and keep looking at where they’re going. Patient and kind volunteers guide the horse and rider around the ring.

“I just love seeing how theyprogress from their first time,” says volunteer Ameera Bonter.

The camp has 10 horses trained as therapeutic riding horses and students ride the same horse every week. “The kids build friendships with the horses,” says Jaimee Picard, the equestrian director at Camp Manitou-Lin.

Class sizes range from seven to 12 students. It operates for six weeks in the fall and six weeks in the spring.

The program began in 2008 with lower elementary cognitively impaired students. Middle and high school students have since been added. Each riding session costs $15 per student, which goes toward care of horses, riding instructor fees and maintenance. The school relies on donations, grants and camp scholarships to pay for the program.

Bradley West enjoys horseback riding Positive results

Pilecki has seen changes in behavior and anxiety issues of students riding the horses. “They learn to take responsibility of their actions and communicate effectively with those around them,” she says.

“It is just incredible to witness their confidence build and self esteem grow and to see the amazing gains they make physically and emotionally.”

CONNECT

Camp Manitou-Lin and how to volunteer

Thornapple Kellogg Schools News

- Sponsorship -
Linda Odette
Linda Odette
Linda Odette is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism. She’s worked primarily as an editor in feature departments at newspapers in West Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Holland Sentinel. She lives in East Grand Rapids near the Eastown edge, has a teenage son and a daughter in college. Read Linda's full bio or email Linda.

LATEST ARTICLES

Fourth-grade hockey fan gets a magical hour on ice: ‘I made the shot!’

Raised as a Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins hockey fan, Jackson Solow lights up while skating on an ice rink wearing his favorite hockey jersey...

‘This time it is continued learning’

One school’s switch from in-person to virtual education last week was nearly seamless, especially when compared with the forced school closure in March...

Foundation grants $28,285 in fall funding requests

Virtual phys ed and art experiences, materials to improve classroom focus and books on social issues aimed at middle-schoolers are among the grants approved this fall...

Latest school closings expand on state-ordered high school mandate

More Kent County districts continue to announce temporary school building closures, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Board to interview four applicants for superintendent post

The public is invited to attend interviews on Nov. 10-11 with four finalists for the Thornapple Kellogg superintendent post...

Superintendent announces retirement, interim named

A former Byron Center superintendent is taking the reins at Thornapple Kellogg on an interim basis...

‘I didn’t give up’

If a challenge becomes an excuse, said senior Clair Jansma, “it's much harder to overcome and you sacrifice opportunities”...
- Sponsorship -

HOW'S SCHOOL TODAY?

Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...

RADEMACHER & FRIENDS

Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -

MEDIA PARTNERS

Maranda Where You LiveWGVU

SUSTAINING SPONSORS