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Review for North Carolina Therapeutic Riding Center, Inc., Mebane, NC, USA

Rating: 5 stars   Featured Review

My youngest son Graham (age 6) has severe emotional and behavioral problems that may be due to early onset bipolar disorder. Regardless of the “label” or diagnosis, Graham’s world is certainly a very troubled place as he struggles with symptoms of both mania and depression, with constant shifting between rage and despair. As a result, Graham is so rarely “at peace”; instead, he switches between manic, anxious, confused, irrational, remorseful, irritable, angry, physically aggressive and verbally abusive. Nonetheless, we know, underneath it all, there is the “real” Graham, an incredibly loving and sensitive little person that is perceptive, clever, energetic … and best of all … HAPPY.

For many years, we have been on a quest to understand the basis of Graham’s problems and how best to serve him therapeutically. We first learned about the program at NCTRC via his occupational therapy group. I think the biggest revelation for me was that NCTRC serves those with both psychological and physical challenges. Years ago I had heard about the benefits of assisted horseback riding for people with physical limitations so it had never occurred to me that Graham would be a candidate for this type of therapy. Once I understood the mission of NCTRC, I factored in Graham’s love of animals and thought it would be a great match for him.

Graham started riding at NCTRC in the fall of 2013. Although I so desperately wanted him to connect with this activity, you never know what will happen with a volatile child that has difficulty with transitions and can be reluctant to attempt new tasks. Well, now I know I shouldn’t have worried because Graham took on this challenge with ease and confidence. He is so serious and focused when he is in the saddle, I can hardly believe he is the same person. I am at a loss to define the exact magic formula for this transformation, but my guess is: (patient and gentle horses) + (patient and gentle instructors) + (fun and supportive volunteer side-walkers) + (friends to ride along with) + (trotting) + (barn cats and barn swallows) + (peaceful and beautiful countryside) + (cowboy boots) = calm and happy Graham. No other activity seems to have this type of soothing power, allowing him to be attentive and cooperative throughout the entire session. He has completed two “semesters” of therapy and very much looks forward to coming each week. And you better believe we will be back next year!! He has been asking to sign up already.

I believe Graham has developed a special sense of achievement working with horses, since not all kids (regardless of ability) have access to riding. He is very proud to tell people about his riding experience, listing the names of all the horses and barn cats, and how he earned ribbons at the annual horse show. Our family is *so* grateful that Graham has had the opportunity to be part of this unique program, one that seems to touch him very deeply and profoundly. The NCTRC has ABSOLUTELY fulfilled our family’s deepest desire for Graham to have something special in his world … the special thing he CAN do, the special thing he can rely on to bring him joy, even in the shadow of his deepest troubles.

We will be forever grateful for the volunteers, staff, and donors of NCTRC.

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Role:  Client Served