Written by: Bryanna Tanase, Therapeutic Riding Participant
At the end of July, I had the amazing opportunity to spend the week at Quantum Leap Farm as part of a camp that my parents and the staff put together for me.
Through the camp, I had an opportunity to experience life on the farm on a day to day basis, understand more about how the different riding programs function, and expand my equestrian knowledge.
Each day I participated in a therapeutic riding lesson either in the morning or afternoon, and I alternated between riding Ganelon, Shane, and Idaho so each lesson was slightly different. Riding more than one horse allowed me to develop my relationship with each of them, as well as understand more about their personality. As an equestrian, the ability to work with and recognize different temperaments is important because it is rare that one will ride the same horse multiple times, especially if they don’t own a horse.
Towards the end of the week, my sister and I rode together. We did a lot of games that forced us to collaborate with each other and communicate to reach a common goal. The point of this was to help both of us realize just how important communication is to overcoming challenges in life. It was really fun to watch her ride too because it was her first time in several years, and I gained more experience by giving her advice when I could.
After my rides, I observed lessons with some of the instructors. Doing this enabled me to comprehend why the lessons are run the way they are, and gave me a chance to understand what the instructors have to watch out for and think about as they teach. I also assisted with the lessons by coming up with obstacle courses and horse trivia questions for the participants to answer. This gave me a chance to apply my existing knowledge of horses and what I learn in my lessons to help others.
One of the most fulfilling experiences of the whole camp was trying liberty horsemanship with Idaho for the first time. For those who don’t know, liberty horsemanship is when you work with a horse in an open yet enclosed space, such as a round pen, without using any tack or equipment. The goal of liberty work is to build a connection with the horse in a natural way. I saw others doing liberty work when I was young, and it captivated me, so you can imagine my delight when the opportunity came for me to attempt it myself. I never imagined that I would do this ever in my life, and it was pure magic. Using just my voice, I was able to guide Idaho for a lap and a half around the round pen, and she kept her nose over my shoulder the whole time.
Sharing that moment with Idaho reminded me why I fell in love with horses, they are such gentle, intelligent creatures, and earning their trust is one of the most gratifying things one can do.
Because hippotherapy and therapeutic riding are at the core of Quantum’s services, it was natural that I learned more about how these programs benefit patients and how they are matched with a horse that will help them meet their goals. Alexis Lopez, the occupational therapist on staff, showed me how patients can be positioned in different ways on the horse to strengthen certain parts of the body, and how a horse’s walking style can also be used in this regard, along with other things. Learning this information was important to me because it highlighted just how much people with disabilities, like myself, can benefit from time on horseback.
All of the other activities I participated in focused on horse care and providing me with essential equestrian knowledge. These included grooming the horses with Cami, going over comparative anatomy of the horse, types of tack, and horse care with Mrs. Edie, learning the parts of the saddle, riding disciplines, and first aid with Emily, and going over the nutrition plans for all of the horses with Kaitlin. I hope to use all this knowledge to my advantage as I continue to help out at the farm, and in the future when I have a horse of my own.
Overall, my experience at camp was awesome and I would definitely do it again if I get the chance. Being at the farm each day and learning so many things reminded me why I love it there so much, and made my passion for horses grow even stronger. Thank you to everyone who worked together to make this possible for me, I’m so grateful for all you do and love you with all my heart.