Vail Daily letter: Therapeutic horseback riding
On Sept. 6, there was an article in the Vail Daily in the Local and Regional section. It was titled “Horseback therapy.” The article was written by John O’Neill and was the result of an interview that he had with Lauren Shaeffer-Cremonese. I would like to add some comments to this article in order to clear up some confusion. In the article it is quoted by Lauren that, “She returned in 2011 knowing there was nothing like this offered in the Vail Valley.” She is referring to a horse therapy program that she is involved with. She had left the valley to go to school and was returning in order to start her program.
In 1996 I helped to start a Horseback Therapy Program at the Ranch at Berry Creek, which is where Battle Mountain High School currently stands. We offered therapeutic riding sessions along with hippotherapy. Our program was called Cowboy Dreams and we served many children who were of school age. It was a very successful program, but in 1999 the program moved to Chicago. At that time I decided to move to Eagle and do my own program. I had received my NARHA (North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, now referred to as PATH) certification, applied and received my own liability insurance and off I went. Since that time I continue to do my therapeutic riding program. Most of my clients are now part of a nonprofit organization here in the Vail Valley called Small Champions. Small Champions is a 501c3. The program provides sports activities for their clients which include a winter ski program, along with many summer activities of which therapeutic horseback riding is one. Small Champions is a program for children who are physically and multiply disabled. It is designed for children in the Eagle County school system. The program is directed towards optimum opportunity for each child to grow physically, socially and emotionally. It is designed to meet the personal needs of each child for maximum growth and self-esteem. Horseback riding can reach each one of these goals. I currently work hand-in-hand with Small Champions and have for over 10 years.
I received several phone calls after Lauren’s article hit the Vail Daily questioning why it was stated that there was nothing like her therapy program offered in the Vail Valley, knowing that I have been working with many children for many years and continue to do so. I would like the families of special needs children here in our community to know that I am still alive and well. I know that Lauren’s program and my program can both exist in our community. If I were to receive a call regarding a child who is severely challenged and I don’t feel that my services meet the needs, I would certainly refer them to Trio, and, likewise, if Trio were to receive a call regarding a child who has the capability to ride more independently, I have been assured that Trio would refer them to me. I appreciate what Trio does. Therapeutic horseback riding and hippotherapy are magical. It puts a smile on one’s face and love in one’s heart to see the smiles on these children’s faces. The self-esteem and the self-confidence that is gained is simply amazing!