Therapeutic Riding Program Builds Confidence

TROT provides riding lessons to children and adults with special needs

Kendra Westlund is no stranger to horses. She's learned a lot about them since she started taking classes with Therapeutic Riding of Texas.

"They make me feel good," she said.

Spending time with horses is one of her favorite activities. She's learned to communicate with them and how to get them to follow her lead.

Westlund is mildly mentally disabled, and her mother said the lessons through TROT have helped her daughter physically, emotionally and intellectually.

"Her ability to even just tie the knot to put on the saddle, even just to do the cinch, do the buckling of the cinch -- all that is stuff she couldn't do before she came here, and that just helps her fine motor skills," Myrle Westlund said.

TROT has provided recreational riding opportunties for children and adults with special needs for more than 20 years. The curriculum includes riding safety, grooming and saddling. The classes are held at Gemini Farms in Cedar Hill.

One of the biggest benefits is confidence, instructors say.

"A lot of the kids, they don't have a lot of control in their lives," riding instructor Annie Sims said. "They have a lot of people that are involved in their life, and up there on top of that horse, they're absolutely in control and they love it. It's the best thing in the world."

Kendra Westlund's mother agreed.

"You know, my greatest fear when I send her out into the world is that people will take advantage of her or ridicule her," Myrle Westlund said. "She's safe and encouraged here and happy and feeling accomplishment, and it does my heart great, just like it does when I watch my other kids do things." 

TROT is open to children and adults with a wide range of disabilities, including cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, spina bifida, visual and hearing impairments, developmental disorders and emotional and learning difficulties.

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