Bright sunlight warms your skin, a gentle breeze wafts aroma of freshly cut grass and the infamous “horse” smell to your nose as infectious laughter and happy chatter fills the air. You feel your horse, excited with the prospect of a scenery change, quicken pace, the breeze leaving mane now entangled with your reins and hands. The terrain changes challenge you to move yet another step closer to achieving your goals. Smiling and laughing, whether reflectively or with your supportive volunteers, you experience yet another level of freedom.
For many of our participants, equine assisted activities offer a certain degree of freedom. Physical freedom from a debilitating diagnosis or wheelchair confinement, cognitive freedom to attend and decipher a newly challenging task, emotional freedom from psychological barriers and social freedom to develop new friendships and supports. While these participants can readily achieve functional goals during our standard services, typically provided in our indoor arena, opportunities for outdoor riding are irreplaceable and indescribable.
During the last two weeks of our 2019 season, a few of participants were afforded the opportunity to experience outdoor equine assisted activities. It is nearly impossible to put the sheer joy, overwhelming elation and unwavering smiles into words. Truly a lifechanging asset to better our service to our participants as we strive for therapeutic excellence.
One of our participants described this in detail: “Riding outside is awesome because there’s so much room and it feels like freedom. When you’re inside you can only go in a circle or in the same places but when you’re outside, it feels so much bigger.” He told his mother, “It’s freedom mom. It’s freedom!”
Why Outdoor Riding? Why an Outdoor Arena?
An outdoor arena would afford us the ability to better serve our participants in a variety of ways. First and foremost, it would provide a variety of additional physical, cognitive, socioemotional and sensory benefits for our riders. Our horses provide unique multidimensional movement to target strength, balance and core activation improvements. As we alter the terrain, such as with an outdoor riding space, we can provide additional challenges to see direct improvements in these key goal areas. Our lessons, typically held in a group setting, allow our riders to develop necessary cognitive skills, such as attention, multi-step processing, memory and problem-solving skills. An outdoor arena would allow us to provide additional challenges for our riders and thus target improvements in these areas (i.e. attention) given the newly diverse environment (i.e. wind, temperature change, lighting change, more scenery to absorb). Equine assisted activities offer a variety of sensory-processing benefits and exploration opportunities just by the very nature of a barn and horse experience; there are a variety of visual stimuli, smells, sounds and textures to explore. An outdoor arena would add an additional component to the experience we provide. There are more stimuli to explore and process when we are able to add in factors such as sunlight, wind, temperature changes, environmental changes (i.e. grass, fencing, horses grazing), sounds (i.e. birds chirping) and new smells.
An outdoor arena would also allow us to increase and improve the services we provide and the number of participants we are able to serve. We graciously lease our facility from Majestic Crossing Dairy during our season, however the indoor arena is utilized for equipment storage during fall, winter and spring months. While we certainly could not brace the Wisconsin winter outdoors, an arena would allow us to extend our services to participants in Spring and Fall as well.
In order to ensure our participants continue to experience the insurmountable benefits of outdoor equine assisted activities, our 2019 Giving Tuesday goal is to raise the funds necessary to place an outdoor riding arena and an outdoor round pen, to be titled the “Freedom Ring” and “Freedom Circle” respectively. Our current campaign goal will also allow for additional features such as an outdoor wash rack to bathe our equine therapists, an outdoor mounting area, outdoor seating and equipment storage. While we recognize our organization has been blessed beyond belief, we are graciously asking individuals, families, volunteers, participants, generous donors and community partners to help us reach our fundraising goal: $50,000.
Your gift today will make the Freedom Caleb felt possible for all our participants.