We are the parents of a 21-year old young man with multiple disabilities. His name is Justin and he is our only child. Justin is challenged with tri-paresis cerebral palsy, developmental delay, seizure disorder, and low vision.
We first learned of the EquiCenter through a pamphlet we saw in the waiting room of the Easter Seals Clinic while waiting to see a psychiatrist help Justin and our family deal with his emotional and behavioral issues. We were very interested in getting Justin involved in the EquiCenter’s Therapeutic Riding Program not only for the physical benefits of it but also for the emotional, social and behavioral benefits of it as well. Since he is an only child, he doesn’t have much peer interaction outside of school.
On the day of his first riding lesson, back in the fall of 2004, Justin was introduced to a horse named Charlie. He was afraid to actually get on the horse and ride that first day. The EquiCenter staff and volunteers were very supportive and patient with him. They didn’t push him into getting on the horse, and they didn’t send him away either. Instead, they allowed Justin to become comfortable with Charlie and the environment by having him groom the horse, try on the riding helmet and go up on the mounting ramp to allow him to be somewhat level to the horse. Justin seemed to really enjoy this and began to relax and settle into the idea of riding. He said that he would actually mount and ride Charlie in the second lesson.
Well, let me just say, that ever since that first day at the EquiCenter eight years ago, Justin has never been the same!! We rode home that day listening to Justin go on and on with excitement about Charlie and wanting to ride him!! He wanted to know how many days he had to wait and counted down from that day until his second lesson when he got on and rode Charlie just as he said he would.
Before starting the program, Justin was pretty much ambivalent towards animals, and although he has a dog, he never really paid much attention to him or took any interest in caring for him. But Justin bonded with that horse right from the start. It was love at first sight for Justin! He has since ridden two other horses that he has had an equal love for, Hope and now Rayne. He often verbally expresses his love for Rayne and tells everyone at school and in our family. He shows his love by bringing apple and carrot treats for Rayne. He is very tender when he grooms Rayne after each lesson. This is something that we have never seen prior to coming to the EquiCenter in his interaction with animals.
He is very proud of the horse and of himself for his bravery and accomplishment in riding! He invites family and friends to come and watch him each week and he even got some of his teachers to come! Justin frequently writes about Rayne for his writing assignments at school and will draw pictures of Rayne for various art projects. Everyone in his life knows about Rayne! He expresses that he misses Rayne in between lessons and sessions and wonders if Rayne misses him too. For Justin to express his feelings like this is a breakthrough for him. And when he learned he would have to miss six weeks of riding to play Adapted Baseball (which he loves) Justin wanted to give up baseball! When we heard this, we knew that this program and that horse truly have a permanent, special place in Justin’s world!
We know that Justin has benefited from this program physically. His Physical Therapist at CP Rochester reported measured marked improvement in his range of motion, his balance, and in his weight-bearing endurance.
We are very grateful to the EquiCenter staff and volunteers and also to Charlie, Hope and Rayne for all that they have done to improve the quality of our son’s life. He is truly benefiting from it physically and most importantly mentally and emotionally. Please take a moment to help children and adults like Justin by sending your gift of support to the EquiCenter because they change lives! It’s great to have Rayne in the forecast!
Ralph and Julie Presciutti