MIDDLEBURY — For nearly five decades, LoveWay has been helping people with special needs take steps toward achieving their goals and working through challenges. Sometimes those steps are as wide as a horse’s stride.
Through its therapeutic riding program, LoveWay, Inc. helps individuals with developmental and behavioral issues by using horses as an aid to learning.
“Working with a horse, a large animal, just connects kids in a different way than being in a classroom does,” said LoveWay Volunteer and Marketing Coordinator Jon Kauffman-Kennel.
The organization works with local organizations to provide training for individuals with disabilities, providing a tailored, one-on-one approach to each student.
“It all depends on the particular needs of the students,” Kauffman-Kennel said.
Licensed trainers work individually with students while riding the horse, but while also doing things like grooming the animals or working on motor skills.
The majority of the time, though, students spend on the horse, which can help develop a variety of social, cognitive, and emotional skills.
And sometimes, Kauffman-Kennel said, horses can develop a connection with students that fosters the development of these skills.
“Horses are fairly empathetic animals,” Kauffman-Kennel said. “They can sense some of the things that can be going on with the rider.”
LoveWay works with local school organizations, like Elkhart Community Schools and Concord Schools, as well as other organizations, like ADEC and Oaklawn.
The organization is also capable of doing individual, home-based training for students as well, even providing individualized classes for adults and seniors.
And LoveWay is always looking to add to its volunteer base, which varies in skill and familiarity with horses.
“We have volunteers that come who have been around horses all their lives and people who have not been around horses at all,” Kauffman-Kennel said.
Later this month, the organization is hosting volunteer orientation sessions for individuals interested in the therapeutic equestrian programs.
Individuals interested in helping with LoveWay can fill out a volunteer application on the organization’s website, http://lovewayinc.org.