BY SYDNEY HORWITZ, RANCH PROGRAM MANAGER
Ascendigo’s Ranch Program provides both children and adults with an individualized horseback riding experience. Participants are given the opportunity to develop a personal bond with horses, while learning the skills and knowledge to become true equestrians.
Through a fun, safe, and active experience, riders learn all the steps of horse care. Catching, leading, grooming, and tacking their mounts are all tasks mastered through the experience. After learning the basics, riders quickly become confident and independent. Various styles of riding, from English and Western to vaulting and trick riding are all available for participants to learn once they are ready.
Each rider has different needs and goals. The Ascendigo approach is tailored for each session, whether it be an individual or group lesson. Our goal is to get the student out of their comfort zone and gain confidence while having fun.
One of the ways we are able to help our riders get completely comfortable on the horses is to have them start riding on a surcingle instead of a saddle. A surcingle is a wide strap that is secured to the horse. It runs over the back and under the belly and has handles on top. The surcingle is put over a thick pad where the rider sits. Because there is not a structured saddle or stirrups in between the horse and rider, the riders can feel the full motion of the horse’s gait. While using the surcingle the rider can sit sideways and backward, they work on balance, trust and connect to their horse through the feeling of the uninhibited movement. After a couple sessions like this, riders can try a Western or English saddle or even continue with the surcingle.
Riders play games on the horses to provide multiple benefits. The games help to build core strength and balance, as well as perfect their riding technique. Ranch Program participants leave the ranch eager to fine tune their horseback riding skills and possess a new found sense of self worth and responsibility from caring for and connecting with the horses.
Sydney Horwitz, Ranch Program Manager, is a Level 3 CHA Instructor (Certified Horsemanship Association). She is currently working on her PATH Certification (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) requiring rigorous training and testing that will certify her to work with all disabilities.