Volunteers help equestrian therapy thrive in Silt
The tragic loss of their youngest daughter in an equestrian accident set Dee and Poke Stiers and their daughter Stephanie on a path to helping other through their love of horses.
For over 25 years now the Stiers family has been helping developmentally and physically disabled equestrians gain strength, confidence and success though equine assisted activities and therapy at the Riding Institute of Disabled Equestrians in Silt.
The nonprofit organization serves clients from 2 to 101 years old, from places including E. Dene Moore Care Center, Colorado Veterans Home and Mind Springs Health, working with the elderly, veterans and children.
Dee Stiers, owner and executive director, said it is all about the help from local volunteers, many of which are school-age children from Rifle to Glenwood Springs.
Stiers said they have 50-70 volunteers for the program, which works with clients Monday and Tuesday during the summer and Thursday and Friday in the fall.
“They are just awesome, they are just great kids,” Stiers said.
Volunteers start as young as 12 years old.
For Dee’s granddaughter Brenna Hinkley, 15, it has been a constant in her young life.
“I was pretty much born into it,” Brenna said.
Brenna volunteers as a side walker, who walks along the side of the horse engaging with the client, making sure they have a good day and have fun.
“I think it’s amazing; it is so cool how its changes them,” Brenna said.
So far this year the RIDE program has served more than 100 students.
Peach Valley resident LaPriel Armijo became involved with the program through a good friend, and began volunteering five years ago.
“I loved it,” Armijo said.
Armijo recently earned her certification through PATH International (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International), and now instructs at RIDE.
“You can see based on why they are there … if it’s physical, a lot of time over the 10-week period you will see their core strength increase, and if it’s a behavioral issue, they learn to engage in conversation and the warm-up program because they want to do other things,” Armijo said.
“They are engaged and happy, and that is what they are all about. You can see them get stronger, it’s one of the most gratifying things I do.”
Colton Shoup, 12, said it’s cool hanging out with the clients and teaching them to ride.
Stiers said they are all family, from the volunteers to the clients.
“We are all connected,” Stiers said.
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