The Orthotic and Prosthetic Assistance Fund (OPAF) launched its newest First Clinic-McKeever’s First Ride™-on June 18 as part of the 2009 Amputee Coalition of America (ACA) Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
Held at the Chastain Horse Park, a North American Handicapped Rider Association (NAHRA) barn, the event included many different aspects of equine therapy. “Our Master of Ceremonies was Ed Dabney, internationally acclaimed horse trainer and clinician, who introduced us to the liberating spirit of the horse and to the fact that being in the company of horses can help people of all ages heal in multiple ways,” OPAF said. “We learned there are many benefits of having contact with horses, whether from the ground or in the saddle.”
After Dabney demonstrated gentle horsemanship training methods, attendees were offered the chance to work with him one-on-one with horses in the main arena. Participants were able to observe, go on barn tours, do arts and crafts activities, and gain hands-on experience with horses. They also had a chance to try out a horse Equisizer, which simulates the feeling of being on horseback. Younger participants were able to go on pony rides. Tony Cerminaro, PT, and Tammie Higgenbotham, both amputee horseback riders, demonstrated adaptive riding.
Nashville recording artist Templeton Thompson and her husband Sam Gay also joined the event and provided musical entertainment. Thompson is the national spokesperson for the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EGALA).McKeever’s First Ride is the vision of Deenie McKeever, who wanted to honor the legacy of her father Dan McKeever, CP, and extend his efforts to champion the needs of amputees, OPAF noted. Deenie McKeever was instrumental in beginning the Horses for Heroes program at Chastain Horse Park, which provides our armed services wounded warriors the chance to have therapeutic contact with horses. “You don’t have to be galloping across the plains to enjoy a horse!” she said.