Ontario therapeutic riding centre brings smiles to children and youth with disabilities
Lesley Ridout-Gauer got her first horse when she was 12. She trained in England with the British Horse Society and brought the knowledge of quality horse care back to Canada.
“My horses are everything to me,” said Ridout-Gauer.
Her dream was to help people with physical or developmental disabilities achieve personal growth through riding. That dream became a reality more than 20 years ago when she founded Windrush Stable.
“Windrush is a therapeutic riding centre that teaches children, as well as adults with disabilities, how to ride a horse and how to fall in love with a horse,” said Ridout-Gauer.
“I have always loved working with people with disabilities. My father was a principal of a vocational school – I think it was just in my blood.”
Riding a horse is quite beneficial for someone with special needs, according to Ridout-Gauer.
“(The horses) can emotionally bring them out of their shell. They can make (the participants) feel important because they don’t judge. It doesn’t matter what you look like, what you can or cannot do – they just love you the way you are,” said Ridout-Gauer.
“Physically there’s a whole lot they can do as far as core strengthening and helping your balance – it’s multifaceted.”
The centre, located in Campbellville, Ont., has strict standards when it comes to safety. The stable offers private lessons with only experienced instructors, focusing exclusively on one rider per lesson.
“They understand both horses and they understand people with special needs … it’s that combination that makes Windrush so special,” said Barry Citren, the father of Daniel Citren, a student at the centre.
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