When I first bought Shyloh, she had a lot of issues that I was unprepared to handle. In my constant Interweb searches of all the Haflinger things, I found a therapeutic riding center that used only Haflingers in their program. Pretty Pony Pastures is always looking for volunteers to help, as they are dependent on them to run the program. I was up for the challenge!
I met Linda Watson, owner of the farm and all of her glorious Haflingers, 13 at that time, I believe. I was in heaven! I got to groom and work a horse, as well as talk to Linda and a couple of her lesson kids. It was a really good experience. Unfortunately, I grossly misjudged the distance and time it took to get there and could not commit to going once a week after work as I planned. I truly wish I lived closer.
|Haflingers in the snow|
Pretty Pony Pastures wanted a shorter horse for their therapeutic riding program and discovered the Haflinger breed. They bought two Haflingers at first, found out that they were gentle and had the disposition that they were looking, and from that point on, decided to only use Haflingers in their program. Since they began using Haflingers here, they have also learned that Haflingers are the breed of choice for therapeutic riding programs in Europe.
Children and adults with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities can benefit from therapeutic riding. The rhythmic movement that the rider feels when on horseback can increase the rider's flexibility, balance, and strength. Pretty Pony Pastures has riders that are on the Autism Spectrum, have Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, and other disabilities. Their barn is completely ADA accessible and they have a ramp that the riders can use to get on the horse so they do not have to climb steps. Usually, the rider will have three volunteers with them: two people walking on the sides and one leading the horse. As the rider's ability increases, the number of volunteers decreases, as the ultimate goal is for the rider to ride independently.
Pretty Pony Pastures uses five Haflingers in their therapeutic riding program (they also offer English lessons):
Buttercup (I got to work with her)
Riders also learn how to groom, lead (if able), and general horse care. Linda works with the child and parents on an instructional riding plan that starts with learning to mount and hold the reins and can go through advanced riding or have the child ride to the best of his/her ability. Goals and progress are charted for the rider.
Several of their riders have improved their core muscles from the therapeutic riding program. A couple riders have even moved from therapeutic riding to the traditional English riding classes. Linda hopes to get a sensory pad to put under the saddle to show the riders how they are sitting on the horse.
In addition to therapeutic and English riding, Pretty Pony Pastures also hosts many events to introduce people to horses. They have Ride with a Friend Day, Ladies Night Out, Test Ride a Pony, Golden Pony Club, and Hero and Volunteer Appreciation Day. There is also a Gift Shop online that helps support the program.
It is a very neat and well put together facility. I love how Linda has each horse color coordinated with a halter and lead combo. On their rack on the wall, she has identifying marks of the horses, plus a photo of them where their halter and lead hang. It is great for the kids, as if offers them more independence in getting the equipment for the horse they will be riding. I also remember Linda telling me once why she uses English saddles over Western saddles. She used to use Western saddles for their sense of security, but once didn't have on that would fit a child. She used an English saddle and noticed a vast improvement in that child from one ride. After that day, she got rid of the Western saddles and only uses English saddles.
Pretty Pony Pastures is a great place for kids and families to learn about horses and how to ride. Keep up the great work!