Lothlorien Therapeutic Riding Center
July is the seventh month of the year. The Roman Senate named it in honor of Roman General Julius Caesar because July was the month of his birth. I love going on the Internet and checking out information like that. I was wondering what I would write about this month so I went through the list of organizations and topics I have written about since I started in July 2004. WOW! That was fourteen years ago.
I found an article I wrote about the Lothlorien Riding Center in 2008 and I wondered what they were doing now. I called the office and explained that I would like to update the people in WNY as to what they were doing these days. I met with Katie Macre who is the Program Director and Volunteer Coordinator. It was amazing to hear all they are doing and how they are helping so many people.
Lothlorien Therapeutic Riding Center was established in 1983 to provide horsemanship and horseback riding opportunities for individuals of all ages with cognitive, physical, emotional and learning disabilities. Since 1986, they have owned and operated their present facility which is located just outside East Aurora at 15 Reiter Road. It is a beautiful, tranquil setting surrounded by trees on ten acres of land.
Their mission statement is, “Assisting individuals to develop their highest potential through therapeutically based equine activities.” The name “Lothlorien” was taken from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which means “the Land of Flowering Dreams.”
Katie Macre is their Program Director/Volunteer Coordinator. She is 42 years old and lives in Lancaster with her husband and three children. She moved from Connecticut to Lancaster in 2005 because of her husband’s job. She has always had a love for horses which started as a child when she lived in Wyoming. She came to Lothlorien as a volunteer after she had her first child. She found them online after searching volunteer organizations. She became friends with Lothlorien’s Executive Director Maggie Keller and was hired in 2008. She has a marketing and graphic design background so she uses those skills at Lothlorien as well.
As the Program Director and Volunteer Coordinator, Katie works directly with the riders, instructors, and hundreds of volunteers each season. The minimum age for volunteers is 14 and the oldest volunteer at this time is 86 years old. “This season, we have 186 volunteers. We could not survive without our amazing volunteers,” Katie shared. “We also have students that do hours for school, honor society, religious programs, civic groups, etc. We also have a wide variety of groups that come to volunteer their time around the facility.”
Regarding volunteer opportunities, Katie said, “Volunteers do not need any experience. We provide all the training and I work with the volunteers to schedule times that work for them. We offer a very flexible schedule, with hour-long lessons Mondays-Thursdays from 10am-8pm and Saturdays 9am-1pm, run in a 6-week session format.”
Currently, the youngest rider in the program is two and a half years old and the oldest is 76. They have one rider, Hale, who has been riding for 30 years. He comes two times a week for an hour each time and he loves it. Katie said riding can make a participant feel like they have accomplished something and it is fun. They also have a Veterans Program, a reading program for inner city youth, a Hospice bereavement program, and other programs that help the community.
I also had the opportunity to talk with Peggy Cain who is a volunteer at Lothlorien four to five days a week for an hour or sometimes a little more. She told me it was her tenth year doing it. She said, “I got involved because I have a nephew who is autistic in Missouri and they did a horseback riding therapeutic program there and he loved it. My husband and I moved to Orchard Park twelve years ago because of his job. A few years later, I was looking for something to get involved with. I love horses and have a lot of experience with them. I went online to find out if there were any programs around here. I read about this program and it was in East Aurora, not far from where we lived. I came over and talked to them about what they were doing. I really liked the various programs. I observed for a while and then took the training course. The training course was getting familiar with the horses, safety protocols, and the variety of opportunities.”
Peggy is a sidewalker, which means she walks next to the rider while they are on the horse to help keep them steady and balanced, assist them with lesson instructions, and provide encouragement. “I hang on to the rider depending on their ability to ride on a horse. We play games with them like Tic Tac Toe, Simon Says, or have them do exercises while they are riding.” The number one priority in lessons is safety followed very closely by having fun! Riders even play basketball, which Peggy says helps their balance and their thought process and it helps them follow directions. She shared, “We see their confidence grow and that is so important. It is wonderful. Some of the kids or adults come and they are so nervous and then you see them bond with the horse and relax. Sometimes after class, they want to help groom the horse or clean up the stable.” She told me the various classes they have are one hour, which is sometimes hard for them, but they usually build up to it. Peggy mentioned that every rider has a leader that leads their horse and each lesson is run by a instructor, but the most important person is the rider.
I asked her what she liked best about volunteering and she said, “I love watching their faces and how much they love riding and how much they love the horses and riding and feeling confident. It is great to see the improvement from year to year.”
You are all invited to Lothlorien’s Boots & Bling Barn Dance, Friday August 24, 2018 at Lothlorien, 15 Reiter Road, East Aurora at 5:30pm. The event is a celebration of Lothlorien’s programs, horses, friends and supporters! There will be live music from Krossfire, food from Fat Bob’s Smokehouse, beverages provided by Certo Brothers, basket raffle, and silent auction. It’s a fun night and all proceeds benefit their programs. Tickets and more information about Lothlorien’s programs are available at <www.lothlorientrc.org> or by calling 716-655-1335.
If you know of a successful program in your community or would like more information please let me know at email@example.com.
|Carol S. Wolf is married to her husband Dick for 52 years. She has 2 sons and 4 grandchildren. She is a writer, speaker, storyteller and leader of workshops and retreats. She is an Associate Spiritual Director at the St. Joseph Center for Spirituality and a member of the Network of Biblical Storytellers WNY.|
Carol wrote this book as part of her two year Master's program in the Academy for Biblical Storytellers. It has just been published and is available for $10.00. Carol is an author, speaker and leader of workshops meditations and conference.
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