A Franklin nonprofit that operates a therapeutic riding program has a waiting list of nearly 300 children, a list they would like to shorten by adding more volunteers.
At Saddle Up, they say, all children are equal in the saddle. Some have learning disabilities. Some have physical disabilities. At Saddle Up, they all have a chance build self esteem, grow strong and forge bonds.
"When you get that bond with a horse, it's really special," said Cheryl Scutt, the program's executive director.
Scutt said she has seen amazing things happen here; kids with cerebral palsy growing stronger, and children with autism beginning to speak.
"We've literally had kids say their first word ever to their horse," Scutt said.
One rider is a slight, blond 10-year-old named Alex. His grandfather, David Jamison, said Alex has become more sociable and more willing to learn in the five years he's been taking lessons here.
"He has been a slow learner. He has had difficulty being able to grasp concepts," Jamison said.
Jamison said being around horses seems to give Alex confidence.
The therapeutic riding program gives more than 4,500 lessons a year. They always need more volunteers, since many students need a leader and one walker on each side.
"So that's potentially three volunteers for every student that's in a lesson," Scutt said.
On busy days, they need 50 to 60 volunteers. The program would not survive without them, Scutt said, and they always need more.
Lisa McKinless, who gives riding lessons at Saddle Up, feels that everyone involved in the program gets a benefit.
"People tell me, that's such a rewarding thing that you do. I tell them, I get the therapy. It's rewarding for me," she said.
For more information on how you can volunteer at Saddle Up, call 615-794-1150, or visit their website.
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