THURMONT, Md. (DC News Now) — People with disabilities come to the Frederick County 4H Therapeutic Riding Program for a few things.
One of them is learning how to improve muscle movement through a range of therapeutic exercises on horseback.
“We build on what they can do, not on what they can’t do. It’s a lot of it is stretching, and a lot of it is moving, following two-step directions, and focusing on learning colors. It’s just whatever they need to learn and work on,” said Vicki Fried, volunteer coordinator for the Frederick County 4H Therapeutic Riding Program.
They have about 14 horses that are actively involved in the program. With those 14 horses, there are about 47 students.
Vicki Fried has worked with kids with disabilities in the past and loves horses, so serving as a volunteer was a perfect fit.
“We have some kids that are nonverbal, but if you can teach them to say, “uh uh” for “walk on”, which is the command to have for the horses to go, that’s huge. you know where you can get them to pat pat, which means walk on, it’s just it makes a huge difference,” said Fried.
When doctors discovered a brain tumor, Lauren Vignola became ill around three years old.
They only gave her one year to live.
“They couldn’t operate on Lauren because the tumor was situated in the stem and was unable to reach it. We found Kettering and they said they could offer a chemo treatment but would only sustain her life for a year. At that point, they had no treatment that would heal her,” said Carmine Vignola, Lauren’s father.
After trying many different treatments throughout Lauren’s lifetime, Lauren’s father says he’s seen the benefits of this program. She’s been riding for about 15 years.
“It’s been awesome. They help me with my balance and my leg muscles,” said Lauren.
“My task in life as a father is to do the best I can to give my child the opportunity to move on with their life. Anything that you see them enjoy, it gives you a great amount of peace and love,” said Carmine.
The program needs more volunteers and horses.
They have a volunteer orientation on August 27th.
You have to be 14 years old to work in the ring.
For more information, click here.