The idea of partnering people with disabilities with horses is not new, but it is extremely powerful. Free Spirit Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program is the only program of its kind on the eastern Navajo Reservation. We harness the strength and kindness of horses and donkeys to help people with a wide range of disabilities. Our riders have cognitive, physical and neurologic issues; such as mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injuries and deafness. We work to improve fine motor skills (the ability to use the small muscles, writing, typing, sewing,etc.), gross motor skills(walking running, jumping), communication, impulse control, and self esteem.
Riders come for lessons once or twice a month. We use different arenas so in essence we bring the horses to the riders. A typical lesson has three different activities; first we warm up and do some stretches, then the real fun begins. An example of a lesson is as follows; we walk over ground poles, then do a classic pole bending pattern and finish up by getting balls out of a mail box and playing basketball. Safety is always our first concern. All riders wear an equine activity approved helmet. Riders may have a leader and two side walkers depending on their needs. Some riders ride independently, with some one walking at their side. Helpers are added or deleted as the needed by the rider. Our goal is to help them to be as independent as possible.
Free Spirit was established in 2006. We started (and continue to be) a program under the Pine Hill Health Center, which is a part of the Ramah Navajo School Board. We started the program as a component of case managing our Special Needs population. We are now expanding services to other areas on the Navajo Reservation. We also provide services to non- native people. Ranching and rodeos are still very important parts of life here in the mountains of central New Mexico. A side benefit of the program is it gives the community an opportunity to see people with disabilities as doing the same thing the non disabled population enjoys. There is no Us-Them, it’s all US, one family.
We are a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. Enjoy our photo gallery. Please contact us if you would like more information, or to be a sponsor. .