Therapy program in Huntersville regroups to ride forward
comments
Thursday, Mar. 27, 2014

Therapy program in Huntersville regroups to ride forward

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/27/12/49/1t78BQ.Em.138.jpeg|210
    MARTY PRICE - MARTY PRICE
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/27/12/49/yeLtc.Em.138.jpeg|210
    MARTY PRICE - MARTY PRICE
    Ted Campbell, treasurer, left; Katherine Mitchell, horse trainer, center, and Teressa Tucker, co-founder of Kids Rein, talk as a percheron shire mix named Ares seems to be looking for the riders.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/27/12/49/11spDY.Em.138.jpeg|237
    Photo courtesy of Kids Rein - KIDS REIN
    Co-founder Phyllis Smeaton works with one of the young riders at Kids Rein.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/27/12/49/13AT1m.Em.138.jpeg|210
    MARTY PRICE - MARTY PRICE
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/27/12/49/ERA0R.Em.138.jpeg|210
    MARTY PRICE - MARTY PRICE
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/27/12/49/vGtbM.Em.138.jpeg|210
    MARTY PRICE - MARTY PRICE
    Co-founder Teressa Tucker leads an Egyptian Arabian horse named Prophet to the empty ramp that helped the children to climb onto the horses for therapy as Kids Rein in Huntersville rebuilds.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/27/12/49/10xsKu.Em.138.jpeg|210
    MARTY PRICE - MARTY PRICE
    (People, left to right) Ted Campbell, treasurer and board member, Katherine Mitchell, horse trainer and Teressa Tucker, co-founder of Kids Rein, talk as "Ares" (right), a percheron shire mix, seems to be looking for the riders. 03-09-14 Huntersville, NC. Kids Rein in Huntersville rebuilds.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/27/12/49/f4ugX.Em.138.jpeg|210
    MARTY PRICE - MARTY PRICE
    Co-founder Teressa Tucker (left) leads an Egyptian Arabian horse named "Prophet" to the empty ramp that helped the children to climb onto the horses for therapy. 03-09-14 Huntersville, NC. Kids Rein in Huntersville rebuilds.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/27/12/49/5noDT.Em.138.jpeg|210
    MARTY PRICE - MARTY PRICE
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/27/12/49/1eoxCF.Em.138.jpeg|237
    Photo courtesy of Kids Rein - Photo courtesy of Kids Rein
  • Want to help?

    Kids Rein can use your donations as well to help fund the hiring of the key roles needed and to keep the costs down. If you would like to donate, volunteer or for more information on Kids Rein go to www.kidsrein.com/home.html.

For the first time since it was founded, Kids Rein – a therapeutic horseback riding program for children and adults with disabilities – will not open for the spring season.

And without help, it won’t be able to open in the fall as planned, leaders of the program say.

Founded in 2005 by Teressa Tucker and Phyllis Smeaton, both PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, International)-certified instructors, the nonprofit program flourished at Latta Equestrian Center in Huntersville through the fall of 2013. But the off-season presented obstacles to opening as usual in April of this year.

The loss of three key volunteers – along with Tucker’s recent diagnosis with serious medical issues that will limit her involvement in the program – meant there would be no spring classes.

This led Tucker to decide she needed to reorganize and rebuild the organization while securing the volunteers needed to make the program work. “Our primary need is to secure PATH-certified instructors. We need to hire a few key members to help organize the other volunteers and lead the program to help more people.”

In June of 2000, two months after moving to North Carolina, Tucker and her husband, Mark’s 18-month-old son Cameron was diagnosed with autism. The December following the diagnosis, while she was searching for a bale of hay for a church presentation, Tucker happened upon Joshua’s Farm, a therapeutic horseback riding farm in Charlotte.

Cameron was nonverbal, so she taught him some basic sign language to help him communicate with the family. At age 5, two months after he started riding at Joshua’s Farm, Cameron unexpectedly said his first word.

“We were in the riding arena when he said “Tess” (the name of the horse he was riding) and I fell to my knees in the arena and started crying. I knew then and there that this was my calling, to help those kids less fortunate than others. My life was changed forever,” said Tucker.

Tucker earned her PATH-certified instructor status in 2002 and in 2004 decided to start Kids Rein in Huntersville. “If I wasn’t blessed with a son with autism, there would not be a Kids Rein. This has opened my eyes to a better, more fulfilling world. My heart is in it for the kids with special needs. If it works for my son, it will work for others,” she said.

The program started with the selection of the horses, “It is all about the disposition of the horse. In my experience, only 1 out of 120 horses can do what I ask my horses to do. You can set off a firecracker around my horses and it wouldn’t bother them.” The horses also have to be selected by size and gait.

“A narrow horse is best for riders with cerebral palsy because at first they (the riders) can’t stretch their legs very wide. They eventually move up to wider horses as they become more limber. I’ve seen children run up and give us a hug even though they could hardly walk when the first came here,” said Tucker.

Each rider requires a lead person, two side walkers – persons who walk on either side of the horse – and an instructor to ride in the arena. Each session includes about 40 minutes of structured riding therapy followed by a 20-minute trail ride to relax the riders.

Eighty-five percent of the clients have autism and can begin as young as 2 years old with a doctor’s written permission. “Early intervention is our niche, starting with the babies,” Tucker said.

“I find it kind of ironic that I have recently been slapped with a disability diagnosis, while this is what I love to do. I will never stop doing this, Kids Rein is my baby and the children we help are my babies. However, I am ready to hand the reins to the right, qualified individuals so that I can stand back and watch it (the program) grow.”

One of the people ready to help the program grow is Ted Campbell, who started volunteering in August 2013 and joined as a board member and treasurer in November. He and his wife, Connie, started the Haley Campbell Scholarship Fund in 2011 after their 17-year-old daughter Haley was killed in an automobile accident as a friend was taking her to go ride her horse. Avid riders, Haley and her mother discussed volunteering at Kids Rein before the accident and the couple decided to honor her memory by helping the program.

The scholarship has provided the program free to 39 riders and will continue to fund the program for those who can’t afford it. “We are trying to keep the costs down for those who pay for the service as well. In the end it is all about getting the kids on these horses,” said Ted Campbell.

In the past the program served 20 to 30 riders per year, and Campbell hopes to double those numbers as they rebuild.

“In order to move forward, we need your help as we have many things which need to be done,” he said. “We are looking for volunteers, ready to commit time and take on responsibilities, in order to help us grow.”

Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at mprice1@vnet.net.

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more