Not Just Horsing Around
Kelly Boyer is the Program Director with the Southern Delaware Therapeutic Riding (SDTR) program located in Milton, Delaware. She has a bachelor’s degree in animal science and business management from the University of Delaware. She has been involved with horse care lessons and showing for over 30 years. Nineteen years ago, she saw an advertisement looking for SDTR volunteers and she jumped on it. It combined her love of horses and helping people. As a volunteer, Kelly assisted with lessons as either a side-walker or horse leader. A year later, she began instructing. As an instructor, she was specially trained and certified by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) and became first aid- and CPR-certified. Each year she pursues continuing education to maintain PATH Instructor status. In 2020, Kelly became the SDTR Program Director.
How long has CAMP Rehoboth been volunteering with SDTR and what sorts of things do they do while volunteering?
CAMP Rehoboth Outreach Program (CROP) volunteers have worked with SDTR since 2016. Tasks they are assigned range from mucking the fields, painting fences and other things, cleaning empty stalls, and general ground maintenance.
What is therapeutic riding, and how is equine therapy different from recreational riding?
Therapeutic equine riding supports people with special needs, such as people with physical disabilities, or learning disabilities, or cognitive or intellectual disabilities. Therapeutic riding differs from recreational riding in that each riding lesson is tailored to each participant’s needs. Our participants must all have approval from their physicians prior to their first lesson.
SDTR works with individuals four-years-old and up. Riders never age out.
What does a lesson look like?
SDTR equine-assisted therapy consists of 30- to 60-minute lessons of one-on-one instruction with a PATH-certified riding instructor. Trained volunteers assist during the lessons.
Our horses are carefully selected based on temperament, build, and gait, and are specially trained to accommodate our riders’ needs during a lesson.
Each participant receives lessons tailored to his or her goals and progress. Instructors focus on improving balance, flexibility, and strength, and increasing confidence and concentration. The achievements of SDTR participants are tangible and life changing.
What do volunteers do at STDR?
Our volunteers aid during our horseback riding lessons either as a side-walker (walk next to the horse and the rider) or as a horse leader (lead the horse during the lesson). Volunteers also help with horse care, barn maintenance, and work with the facilities team to help keep the entire property in good order. SDTR has 255 volunteers that help in a variety of ways.
What’s your best memory of volunteering/working at SDTR?
One of my top memories working with SDTR was when a 10-year-old boy, who was on the autism spectrum, came in for riding lessons. The first time he came he was excited to come but was also very scared. The second time he came, he was still very excited and this time he got on the horse. By the third lesson, he began speaking. In a very short time, there was a change in confidence and a willingness to learn skills. He learned to love to ride.
This program also offers a community for families of individuals with disabilities to come together to network, communicate, and share their experiences.
How long have you been coming to Rehoboth, and what is the biggest change that you have seen?
As a child I came to the area for vacations. My family lived in Maryland, and I can recall coming to Rehoboth every summer. I moved to this area permanently 19 years ago. Since coming to Rehoboth, the biggest change I’ve seen is that there is a greater acceptance of everybody. In addition, the population growth and the housing/business development is overwhelming.
What are you most thankful for?
I am most thankful for the abundance of community support for SDTR which allows us to serve individuals in our area through the healing power of horses. ▼
Karen Laitman is a member of CAMP Rehoboth’s Volunteer Development Committee.