Wright told the Rotary Club of Cleveland about the center and its newest program during its weekly luncheon Tuesday.
The newest program will launch in January as a therapy outlet for servicemen and servicewomen and their families through the national “Horses for Heroes.”
“This program is to be free of cost,” Wright said.
For this program, the center will be working with physical therapists and psychotherapists. Wright said horses are good for this kind of therapy.
“[Horses are] constantly concentrating on what’s going on around them, they’re evaluating the situation ... and that’s what a lot of the veterans do when they come back home and are trying to adjust. And the horses are providing the therapy, and help them adjust,” Wright said.
Wright said for now there is more of a need for therapy for the families of deployed military personnel. The first family member will join the program in January. The center hopes to start serving veterans in September 2013.
The director’s work with the center started when she was a student at Berry College, near Rome Ga.
“I got involved there and it totally, 100 percent changed my life, and it changed my direction,” Wright said.
Wright changed her college major to learn more about therapeutic riding and to be able to work at the center.
The center started out as a one night per week program and has grown to six nights a week, serving a variety of ages.
“We are providing equine-assisted therapies to individuals with physical, mental and emotional disabilities. They start at age 2 and our oldest rider, I believe, is age 67,” Wright said. “It is constantly transforming.”
The four instructors are certified through Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. Volunteers are a vital part of the main program. Lee University, Cleveland State Community College and Southern Adventist University have served as valuable partners in recruiting volunteers, according to Wright.
“So many more kids are getting diagnosed with autism, learning disabilities, developmental disabilities, and so parents now are a lot more proactive in wanting to get their kids to therapy,” Wright said.
Wright said equine therapy is an alternative therapy that seeks to make the experience fun for the child. The center also provides a therapeutic riding program for at-risk teenagers though a six-week character traits program.
“Horses are so great for therapy, because they mirror how we feel,” Wright said. “If we’re in a bad mood, the horse is in a bad mood. If we’re in a great mood, more than likely the horse is going to be in a great mood.”
All of the eight horses in the program were donated. Wright said she inspects each horse carefully because they have to be able to adapt to being ridden by multiple people and they have an ever-changing routine. There is a cost of $15 to participate in the therapeutic programs; however, scholarships are available based on need.