Kyle Varnell, Katie Slifko, April Sanders, and Don Varnell recently completed four days of training and testing to earn their certifications.
“It was exciting to have our certificates presented by Charles Fletcher, founder of SpiritHorse International,” said Kyle Varnell.
“Mr. Fletcher traveled to the area all the way from Corinth, Texas to lead the four-day training event. His overriding principles of simply loving the children and always doing what is best for them is inspiring, to say the least.”
Fletcher started the first SpiritHorse center only eight years ago. There are now more than 30 licensed centers worldwide, serving more than 2,000 special needs individuals per year. They are the only centers in America that provide all private therapeutic horseback riding services free to people with disabilities.
“These instructors are on the leading edge of the revolution of therapeutic riding,” said Fletcher, who also created the research-based, award-winning method the instructors follow. “A study by a leading medical school showed that we moved 24 severely autistic children to mild autism and one to non-autistic in just six months of intervention.”
“We are pleased and excited to add these four talented and dedicated instructors to our staff,” added Darlene Poteet, executive director of the local program. “Plus, we’ve achieved an additional milestone in our commitment to excellence. Instructors Emily Shelton, Kristie Poteet and Kayla Davis all earned their Senior Instructor Certifications at the same event.”
SpiritHorse at Black Fox is located in the Black Fox Equestrian Center, a local riding complex, which also breeds, raises, trains and shows the Ponies Of The Americas (POAs) breed.
“POAs are horses, but they are not as large as many other breeds,” explained Emily Poteet, senior horse trainer at the facility.
“Since they have such sweet dispositions and smaller size, they are perfect for children to train and show. The disciplines learned in the show arena, and its smaller size, makes the POA an excellent choice for use as a therapy horse.”
SpiritHorse at Black Fox is currently pursuing funding for expansion. It relies solely on gifts from caring individuals, corporations and foundations to offer services free of charge to special needs children who reside in the Southeast Tennessee, Western North Carolina and North Georgia areas.
For more information visit SpiritHorseTN.org or call Darlene Poteet at 423-505-2215.