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Summer Enrichment

Image by Eric J. Keller/Soulcatcher Studio

Every year during summer time, I count down the days until NMCTR’s Summer Enrichment Program. The program is a week long therapeutic riding program (similar to a summer camp) for children with special needs. As the week approaches, I prepare the schedule which can be a very time consuming process of making sure we have enough volunteers to assist every child, go over my lesson plans (making sure that I have two lesson plans per day, one riding lesson plan and one unmounted learning activity), and contain my excitement for a fun filled week. Every day, we ride in the morning and after lunch we would do an unmounted learning activity. Seeing the smiles on the back of the horse when they accomplished goals, such as learning to steer, vocalizing to “walk on”, following multiple step directions, was heart warming. Every year, our learning activities are developed based on the participants abilities and disabilities. This year, our participants loved to paint! We learned about parts of the horse by painting a real live horse! We also learned about different breeds and colors of horses by painting our own “Painted Ponies”! And we even made our own stick ponies.

My favorite day of the week is our Paint a Horse Day. We teach the children parts of the horse and then we have them paint those parts on an actual horse. This year, we used our horses Kodi, Ginger and Yoda as our canvases. They were so willing and patient. They let the children paint different parts of their bodies and when that learning activity was finished, we let the kids paint the horse however they dreamed. It was so beautiful to watch. The children had visions of their very own master piece. They had a plan, a strategy. We stepped back and watch each child interact with their horse and paint with passion and love. There are no words to explain this joyous moment. 

When the program has come to an end, it brings me joy to reflect on the week. Of course I always make note of what I can change next year, but I spent most of my time noting the success each participant had made. Balance and coordination improved; riding skills improved; friendships formed; confidence became stronger as each participant became more independent; focus, determination, and motivation increased; fears were overcome; and fun was had! Not only was it wonderful to see all the participants successful, it was also a joyous moment to see how proud the parents were.

Everything about the summer enrichment program brings me joy. It is my favorite time of summer. I want to thank all the participants, parents and caregivers, volunteers and Eric Keller for the wonderful pictures. I look forward to next year!

Ashley Armijo ~ NMCTR Program Director