By DOUG GRAVES
DAYTON, Ohio — It’s mental and physical therapy, and it’s performed on horseback; for the past 40 years the Therapeutic Riding Institute (TRI) of Springboro has helped more than 4,000 people.
Founded in 1973 by Betty Lou Townley and the late Linden Moore, TRI provides riding therapy for the disabled, helping those with autism, muscular problems, post-traumatic stress disorder and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
“Through the years there was not as much response from the medical field, but now even doctors and therapists are sending people to us because they see what kind of benefit riding a horse gives to the students,” said TRI Program Director Cindy Redolfi.
TRI, with its 125 volunteers, contains six learning components: mounting, warm-up, lesson, exercise, games and dismounting. Riders learn basic skills by learning to ride a horse. Students benefit from physical activity, mental stimulation, extended communication opportunities and new peer relationships.
The experiences carry over into the students’ everyday activities by giving them confidence to try new, challenging experiences.
“The benefits to be gained are many,” Redolfi said. “For instance, if they can sit on a horse they’ll better be able to sit in their seats, and if they can hold their reins they’ll be able to hold their pencil much better. We’re providing horseback riding opportunities to children and adults with an array of challenges. We’re changing lives.”
TRI members and students were at the Dayton Horse Show earlier this month, showcasing the many accomplishments of the program over the past four decades. Participants of the TRI program rode horses, exhibiting their newly acquired abilities.
“The energy level with our program right now is just through the roof,” said Marlene Milkis, TRI executive director. “There’s a miracle in our arena every single day. Some things that some people don’t see as a miracle are miracles for our students who ride our horses.”
TRI also offers programming for at-risk youth in partnership with public schools and mental health facilities. With its Horses Assisting Heroes, TRI is providing horseback riding to veterans of the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through the Wounded Warriors Program.
Families wanting to participate are charged $40 per class for group lessons and $45 for private lessons. Other program costs include horse board and care, arena time for classes, mailings, insurance, PATH (Professional Assoc. of Therapeutic Horsemanship) International membership, instructor and volunteer training, contracted fees for instructors, volunteer coordinator and equine manager. Volunteers donate their time for all administrative, organizational and other services.
TRI rests on 30 acres in Springboro and features a 40-stall barn with two indoor arenas. TRI serves children and adults with disabilities through PATH-accredited equine assisted activities and therapy. TRI is headquartered at FineLine Stables, 5224 Dearth Road in Springboro; call 937-478-1288 to learn more.