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Sign up now Southern STARRS for fall classes
Sep 14, 2012 12:00 am
As Saranne Winfield will tell you, there's just something special about the bond between horse and rider. Those special relationships are what the Southern STARRS therapeutic horseback riding program is all about.
The program gives special needs children, and some adults, the chance to experience creatures who don't know, and don't care, that they have disabilities.
"The unconditional acceptance of a human by an animal comes into play," she said. "The horse doesn't judge how they look or how they act."
The horses also give participants a sense of freedom most have never experienced.
"In general, young children who have a disability live in a world that is typically very structured. They don't have a lot of freedom or autonomy. If they're in a wheelchair or have to use some kind of equipment to move around, they are even more limited," Winfield said. "Being able to ride gives them an ability to feel a bit more independent because that horse is moving at their direction. They get to feel like they're in control of this 1,200 pound animal when they control so few things in their lives."
Winfield and her husband, Terry, use their Lone Willow Farm and their horses for the STARRS program, which provides therapeutic horseback riding to children with physical and mental disabilities, victims of a life altering trauma or terminal illness and victims of child abuse who have been placed in foster care.
STARRS will begin fall classes Thursday evening, Sept. 20. Participants must be at least 3-years-old to participate in the program, which is open to people in the middle Tennessee region.
Volunteers are needed during weekday evenings and Saturday mornings to help during classes. If you are 14 years of age or older and can donate three to four hours per week, contact the STARRS office for a volunteer application or download forms from southernstarrs.org.
Interested volunteers are encouraged to attend one of several two-hour training sessions offered on Saturday from 10 a.m. until noon, Monday from 5-7 p.m. and Sept. 22 from 10 a.m. until noon at the program stables at Cairo Bend Road in Lebanon.
Those want to volunteer and cannot attend the training, an alternative training time will be scheduled. For adults, references and a signed release for background checks are required and included on application forms. Volunteers under 18 will need parent approval and signature.
The number of students STARRS can serve is directly dependent on the number of volunteers who want to help a student learn to ride. Experience with horses or a child with disabilities is beneficial but not necessary as experienced riding instructors lead classes.
Professionals in physical, occupational or speech therapies; psychology; medical; social work; etc. are encouraged to volunteer. Also, student internships and community service credit hours are available.
To participate in the program there is no time to waste.
"To sign up as a student or volunteer, go to the website and download application forms," Winfield said. "That's the first step, we can't go any farther without that information."
The program is $150 for 10 classes, which can be paid in two installments. Classes are held on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings.
Those with financial need may apply for a scholarship, however, scholarship funds are available on a first come, first serve basis and are not guaranteed.
Don't be discouraged if you have to wait for a later session.
"We have a very, very limited number of class openings, so most likely people will go on a waiting list. The general rule is first come, first served. If someone has to fill out a scholarship form that can put them on the waiting list," Winfield said.
For more information, contact Winfield at 453-2592, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit southernstarrs.org.
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 444-3952, ext. 45 or via email at email@example.com.