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Ride to walk a boon for kids

By: Carol Feineman, News Messenger Editor
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Tayler Sett eagerly anticipates Friday afternoons. For one hour, the 10-year old Coyote Creek fourth-grader grooms Rico, then puts a saddle on the horse before riding for almost an hour. “It’s fun because you get to trot and the horses are very nice,” Tayler said. “Riding a horse is easy, similar to jump rope because of the bouncing. But it took a lot of work to learn how.” Doing these activities means the world to Tayler, who considers Rico a special friend. It means just as much to her mother, Jennifer Sett, because it provides a nurturing environment for Tayler. When Tayler’s near Rico, she can relax. “Fridays are the highlight of Tayler’s week. The horses don’t judge her; it’s an unconditional bond,” Jennifer Sett said. Tayler is working on self-esteem issues, her mother explained, because her school peers do not socially accept her. That results in bullying problems for Tayler. Fridays are a way for Tayler to cope with her school problems, according to her mother. “First off, no one else around her is doing these activities. Tayler feels special doing it. She’s very proud that she can do this,” Jennifer Sett said. “The (Ride to Walk) volunteers are amazing. They have such great ways of working with the kids and such patience. Doc (the North American Handicapped Riding Association certified instructor) makes Tayler laugh and brings her out of her shell. They’re really good at what they do.” And it’s just as heartening for Susan Brouwer, Ride to Walk’s assistant director, who says she sees children with disabilities becoming stronger and healthier the more they ride horses. “The movement of horses mimics walking. It loosens arms, legs, everything. We have kids who should be wheelchair-bound and yet they’re walking,” she said. The nonprofit Ride to Walk is a therapeutic horseback-riding program founded 25 years ago by Kristine Corn, a doctor of physical therapy. The program is designed for children and young adults in Placer and surrounding counties with neurological disabilities such as autism, brain injuries, strokes, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy and spinal-cord injuries. “The movement of the horse translates to the child the need to actually respond to the horses movement,” Corn, the Ride to Walk’s executive director, said. “In the process of doing that, the child works on strengthening muscles, increasing the movement of their joints, which in turn is what allows you to have balance and postural control.” Ride to Walk’s stables and arena are located on 21 acres at 1630 Highway 193, near Sierra College Boulevard, in Lincoln. How the public can help Each ride costs the organization $170, which includes horse expenses, hay and staffing, according to Brouwer. Staff includes the executive director, the assistant director, a physical therapist, a North American Handicapped Riding Association certified instructor and barn manager and assistant barn manager. About 90 volunteers also help, from leading horses around the arena, walking alongside the horse as an extra safety measure for the child, exercising horses and working at fundraisers. And more help is needed. A volunteer orientation is held the first Saturday of every month. Volunteer applications are online at www.ridetowalk.org or by calling Brouwer at 434-0693. Currently, 80 riders from ages 3 to 27 visit Ride to Walk each week. Most riders receive scholarships. No one is turned away for lack of funds, Corn said. Alta California Regional Center provides less than half the income to run the program, Corn added. Donations from businesses and individuals make up the remainder of operating income. “We’re looking for sponsorships, every dollar helps,” Corn said. “For those interested in helping, partially sponsor a child or a horse. We’re a local charity. All donations stay in the program to promote the riding for the children.” Niello Volkswagen Ranch Run & Car Show from April 3 to April 5 will raise money for Ride to Walk. And Ride to Walk will have its fifth annual Boots & Scoots BBQ and Barn Dance fundraiser on May 16. For more information about Ride to Walk, call 434-0693, e-mail ridetowalk@sbcglobal.net or check the Web at www.ridetowalk.org.