Therapeutic Horseback Riding
Individuals with Disabilities

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A "Great" Strides Success Story!

September 26, 2007

Dear Members of Great Strides:

I wanted to tell each and every one of you THANK YOU for making Tyler's dream come true this summer. Also a big thank you to Chisum and Sugar for their patience and understanding. Tyler had such a great time coming to ride. All of you helped make this the best summer for him. It's hard to put into words my gratitude towards all of you. It truly is a gift you all have. I believe that every connection he makes in this world brings him further out of the darkness of autism. Thank you for your time, for your acceptance and for caring about children like Tyler. The world's a better place because of people like you!

A Million Thanks,

Jill Henry
(Tyler's Mom)

Terry Quam, local race car driver, supports Great Strides during 2007 racing season

By Terry Quam, Decorah, IA

Hi my name is Terry Quam and I have been an active race car driver at the local tracks for approximately 18 years. I became interested in racing because of my fondness of cars and I thought it would be fun.
   For the 2007 racing season, I decided that I was going to do something different. I want to bring some awareness to my community and the sorrounding areas about young children with disabilities.
   My wife and I have a son, Brandon, who is 3 years old, and he has Down Syndrome. We want to let spectators and fans know that there are organizations that can provide and bring hope to these children with special needs - that these special people can succeed in life and can learn skills just as everyone else.
   I believe that by supporting this wonderful program, Great Strides, families will grow stronger and become more confident about themselves. It is important to continue educational opportunities for all persons with disabilities in our communities and to help support organizations such as Great Strides by donations and/or volunteering.
   I, Terry, would like to give special thanks to my family, Lilly (wife), Brandon (for giving me the support to drive to Win !!!), Bleys, Wesley, Melody and Hazel. Thanks also go out to the rest of my family and to Great Strides for giving me the opportunity to support their organization. I believe that together all things are possible, we hope that we can reach others for a better future in our community.... and wherever we might go.

Horses help autistic boy, P.J. Herold of Fort Atkinson, develop confidence

By Lissa Greiner

From The Decorah Journal, July 13, 2006

   Sir Winston Churchill once said "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of man."
   Fort Atkinson's Penny Herold couldn't agree more. Herold, the mother of a 14-year-old autistic son with pervasive developmental delays, has seen first-hand what the love of the horse can do for a person.
   At just three years old, Herold's son, P.J., was diagnosed with autism. She and husband, Paul, searched far and wide for a way to draw him out of his shell.
   "He basically didn't play with things, but he always liked his rocking horse. Part of autism is that they rock a lot," she said.
   Then, when P.J. was about four, something amazing happened. The Herolds, of Fort Atkinson, took P.J. to Decorah to see the Reminisce Magazine horse hitch, manned by Fort native Hoss Zbornik. Herold admits she was apprehensive about letting P.J. get too close.
   "I'm afraid of horses," she said. "But when the guy promised the horse wouldn't move a muscle, he was right." Herold watched as P.J.'s eyes lit up. After seeing his reaction to the gentle giants, she knew she needed to provide him with more opportunities to be around them.
   Not long after, Herold learned through coworker Eunice Veeder about a local effort to form a therapeutic horseback riding program for individuals with disabilities. She was thrilled with the idea. As soon as the organization was up and running, P.J. was one of the first to saddle up.
   "The first time he went, he was just happy to be near them. The first time they put him on a horse, he whinnied the whole time," said Herold.
   "I was surprised because he's so afraid of dogs. These horses are big and he's not afraid of them at all." Before that time, P.J. had exhibited a limited vocabulary. Then something happened, which Herold said she will never forget.
   "They sent home a paper which listed all the parts of a horse and he learned every one of them and could point them out and say them. His language development blossomed," she said.
   After P.J. began the program, Herold said she and Paul had to be more careful about what they said around P.J.
   "Anytime he heard us talking about Great Strides, he would go get his boots on and stand by the door," she said. Herold said they quickly learned that horses were a positive motivator for P.J.
   "Horses help him remain calm and focused because sometimes he zones out if you let him," she said. She said she also thinks autistic children relate well to horses because they have similar responses to stress.
   "With autistic children, a lot of noise can bother them. Like horses, you have to keep them calm so they don't go into flight mode," she said.
   Herold said at the start of each day, she and P.J. review pictures of what things they'll be doing for the day. If the pictures include Great Strides or visiting a neighbor's horse, P.J. always perks up.
   "Over the years, the horses have really helped motivate him with regard to his behaviour at home, and his speech. Although he's content to just be with a horse, it's nice that the volunteers always ask him questions and make him answer. Speech is an ongoing developmental challenge for him and if he's talking about horses, he might say a whole sentence," she said.

Great Volunteers
Herold credits all the people who help with Great Strides.
   "The volunteers really help make it possible. They all pitch in and are really great about keeping me informed of his progress," she said.
   Herold said in addition to his speech development, horseback riding has helped with P.J.'s physical challenges. "They do physical therapy on the horses. They throw him a ball. He's having fun while he's learning something," she said.
   "I really recommend anyone with a special needs child to give this a try. You'll be amazed at what a life-changing experience and attitude adjuster it can be," said Herold.