Horsing Around in Sarasota

By Milena Park, ADT Director

Erick Erick loves horse riding or simply just being around them. Erick has been part of Sunrise/UCP Sarasota since July of 1998 and now lives in an In-Home Supports apartment with one of his peers along with a staff member. Luckily, he still visits his parents’ home where he can see the horses.

While volunteering for the Equestrian Special Olympics in 1995, I realized the way a horse could impact a person’s life. Since Erick has such a passion for horses, I started looking into therapeutic riding opportunities for him as well as other individuals who attend our Day Program and decided to contact the Sarasota-Manatee Association for Riding Therapy (SMART). Erick was very excited when I told him he would be able to learn how to drive a horse carriage. SMART has a carriage that has a special lift which raises the wheelchair and locks it into place at the front, so that the individual receiving the lesson can take the reins. After his first lesson, Erick was able to feed the horse grain out of a bucket. At first attempt, he placed the bucket in his lap so he could wrap his arms around the horse;s face! Erick is not able to hear, so the sensation of touch and feeling the motion of the carriage means a great deal to him. Erick loves to touch, smell and use all his other senses to get the full effect of everything hi does When I printed this picture and gave it to Erick, he look at it for a moment and then took it from me smiling, while nodding his head in approval. Seeing the joy this simple gesture brought to his face was a reminder of the “real” reason I love my job!