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CHALLENGE NEW MEXICO

By Chris Werhane, Deputy Director

Chris Werhane and the Challenge group.

In July of 1992, Challenge New Mexico added a new and exciting program for people with disabilities, The Challenge New Mexico Therapeutic Riding Program. Like other successful programs around the country, the CNM Therapeutic Riding Program is designed to incorporate fun, learning and therapies in one setting. The program is now in its eighth year and has recently expanded to include a pilot program in Los Alamos. Currently these programs serve the needs of approximately 70 riders per week.

Why is horseback riding so effective? When anyone is riding a horse at the walk, the rider's body is receiving the same stimulation as if they were walking normally. The three dimensional swinging motion of the horse's gait up/down, forward/backward, side to side provides a living therapy apparatus. The movement pattern of the horse causes the brain to send relaxation messages to the muscles. Back and leg muscles strengthen; eye-hand coordination, balance and posture improve. Horseback riding has extraordinary physical and psychological benefits and is recognized as one of the most therapeutic forms of recreation for the person with a disability. It encourages the freedom and mobility that a person with a disability often misses.

Chris Werhane and young rider.

Students also participate in a fun learning curriculum, which covers information about horses and their care. "Hands-on" learning involves the students in the actual care, so they can begin to appreciate the responsibility of owning a horse.

Volunteers are the backbone of this program. With the program operating five days a week, it often takes 40 volunteers each week to make the program run smoothly. Volunteers help with the riders, the horses, and the upkeep of the facility. Their willingness to serve people with disabilities allows CNM the opportunity to offer this quality-of-life, therapeutic program. In return, they get a chance to learn patience and to form special friendships. Some volunteers come because they love the horses, others because they want to help people who could not otherwise ride, and some because they want to give something back to their community.

Challenge New Mexico is a non-profit organization founded in 1957 on the principle that all individuals should have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. CNM offers a variety of programs that are community based and focus on ability not disability. Each program is designed to be fun and helps enable and empower each individual to live a happy life. CNM is committed to providing quality of life programs and experiences for all people with disabilities.

To learn more about Challenge New Mexico, volunteer or participate in any of the CNM programs please write, call or e-mail us at: Challenge New Mexico, 2504 Camino Entrada, Santa Fe, NM 87505, (505) 988-7621 x105. Email: rec@challengenewmexico.com

Note: This article first appeared in the Summer/Fall 1999 issue.

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