When it comes to your health and well-being, there are many benefits from being around horses – especially for people with disabilities. Therapeutic riding programs, such as the one offered by the Community Association for Riders with Disabilities (CARD), can improve their quality of life.
“I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) when I was 41,” said Janet MacNeil, a rider at CARD.
“It hit me really hard at first and I couldn’t ride and finally I was on the internet and I found CARD … and I thought, ‘I can ride.'”
CARD was established 50 years ago and now operates year-round in a large heated arena at G. Ross Lord Park, near Dufferin Street and Finch Avenue West.
“It allows the disabled riders to not only re-engage in the community, but to become a larger part of the community as a whole,” said Chuck Wright, executive Director of CARD.
Therapeutic riding along with other safe, meaningful, supervised interactions with horses are medically recognized to benefit children and adults with almost any cognitive, physical and/or emotional disability.
“It makes me feel normal,” expressed MacNeil.
“I have loved horses my whole life — they are in my DNA — so being on top of a horse give me back my independence and I don’t have MS when I’m here.”
CARD brings horses and people with disabilities together in positive, life-changing ways.
“I wouldn’t miss the program for anything. It’s the one day of the week that I look forward to the most … because it’s just an hour where it’s me and my horse,” said MacNeil.
“The horses are very special. They know they have a job to do,” Wright said.
“The horses in our program are a little older between 16 and 21, and all of them are donated by people in the horse industry and the horse sector.”
The connection between the horse and rider is a magical bond, inspiring mutual trust and shared responsibility.
“It’s a sense of freedom … It allows the riders to escape their everyday life, their everyday routine and gives the ride something different to look forward to,” explained Wright.