MORAVIA | Clients of Makin Memories Therapeutic Riding Center will have an easier time saddling up thanks to a new lift installed at Southern Tier Stables.
With the help of a $5,000 donation from the Moravia Rotary Club, stable owners Donna and Mark Minnoe were able to realize a dream they've had of promoting independence among children and adults with disabilities.
The rotary club's financial help meant a $10,000 SureHands therapeutic lift was recently installed inside the stable's tidy barn. This year, the Minnoes, with the help of friends and volunteers, raised $5,000 through a variety of fundraisers, including a 5K mud run, to match the rotary's donation and finalize the lift's purchase.
The streamlined, motorized apparatus dangles from a ceiling truss near a wooden wheelchair ramp built to deliver riders to horses. To transfer them to saddles, the lift's chest cups and thigh supports, attached to adjustable metal arms, accommodating up to 440 pounds, momentarily suspends riders above a therapeutic saddle before lowering them into it.
The lift quickens the process of getting riders in the ring, Donna said. It also saves handlers and from doing most of the lifting.
"This is like a miracle in Moravia," she said. "This opens doors for so many people."
For years, Makin Memories has hosted Freedom Recreational Services' Freedom Riders program and a similar Cayuga Community College riding program. Veterans' groups have expressed an interest in the benefits of therapeutic riding programs and the lift will help get vets horseback riding, Donna said.
"There's a bonding that happens between a rider and a horse," she said. "Muscles relax, a calmness happens, and I see happiness."
A former aide in special education classes at the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES, Donna and her husband have more than 15 years of therapeutic horsemanship between them. She is a Professional Association Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Int.) certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor and Mark is a Level 3 graduate of Richard Shrake's Resistance Free horse training method.
The stable boasts a fleet of eight horses with the patient demeanor needed to contribute to the independence of persons with disabilities who ride.
"It takes a quiet, patient horse," Donna said. "Not all horses are cut out for this."
Each rider is accompanied by two side walkers during their time in the saddle.
Moravia Rotary President Tom Collins, his wife Valerie and longtime rotarian Stuart Wood, Jr., stood together in the barn as SafeHands representative Michael Moran demonstrated the Minnoe's new lift.
Valerie tested it out, too.
As she was lowered into the saddle strapped to Doc, a 16-year-old black quarter horse, she smiled a wide grin, claiming the seconds it took to transfer her to the horse as "cool."
Mark, his voice tinged with both pride and gratitude, watched as the lift joined rider to horse.
"That is so beautiful," he said. "What a beautiful thing to have.
"You can't put a price tag on this."
Staff writer Carrie Chantler can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @CitizenChantler.