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Questions:

How can individuals with disabilities ride a horse?
How do they get on?
How do the kids learn responsibility? How can this help their self-esteem?
What is the Rainbow Achievement Program?
Do the participants have to be working with a therapist - or with your therapist(s) ?
Do you have insurance?
Do you have a bunch of rules to follow?
Will the horse bite or kick me?
Where do you get the horses?
What do you do if a kid acts out while on the horse?
How much does it cost?
How can I get involved with SunCatcher TRA?

Answers:

How can individuals with disabilities ride a horse?
If an individual has the ability to support him/herself sitting up - even though they may not be very steady or have good muscle tone - they can be supported atop a specially trained horse. Sidewalkers on each side will support them and a horse-handler will control the horse. As they ride, their torso and neck muscles will be strengthened as their leg muscles are stretched.

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How do they get on?
We have specially built ramps to allow the riders to mount from a raised position. If they still cannot perform a standard mount from the raised position, we assist them to transfer to the horse, in much the same way that they would transfer from one seat to another.

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How do the kids learn responsibility? How can this help their self-esteem?
First, it is a privilege and a pleasure to be able to work with horses; this gives us a built-in incentive plan. Since our participants are learning to care for their horse, as well as ride it, they are developing a sense of responsibility. They also must be prompt, wear the appropriate riding attire and direct their horse, while remaining attentive to other riders. Part of our program involves their working with our physically challenged kiddos; this extends their responsibilities beyond their own. Our riders are enrolled in a Rainbow Achievement Program where their achievements are charted and rewarded. All of this combines to create an atmosphere of pride and accomplishment.

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What is the Rainbow Achievement Program?
It is an educational equestrian program broken down into the areas of Horsemanship (which includes all aspects of horse care and management), Academic Achievement and Social Ethics. Our lesson plans address these topics with games, interaction, and hands-on experiences. It is an "outcome-based" learning program where riders climb the levels of the rainbow as they achieve. They are rewarded with stickers, patches and medals, as well as pride in their own abilities.

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Do the participants have to be working with a therapist - or with your therapist(s) ?
Our riders may work with their own therapists if their therapists are comfortable working in our setting (our therapist liaison can provide in-service training). Or they may come into the program under the Recreational or Sports Therapeutic Riding Programs - working with our trained therapeutic riding instructors. Every participant must have a signed physician's statement indicating whether there are any contraindications or medical implications of which we must be aware (such as seizures where we would have to provide sidewalkers at all times).

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Do you have insurance?
Certainly. We carry insurance at each site and on each horse and arena owner.

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Do you have a bunch of rules to follow?
We have basic safety and management "Barn Rules" in place to ensure that the experience is safe and fun for everyone.

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Will the horse bite or kick me?
Our horses are specially chosen for their reliable and tolerant temperament. Then they are introduced to all the equipment we use in the arena and are trained to handle the close quarters and normal excitement that happens in our arenas. We also have horse-handlers assigned to each horse and rider (especially in the beginning) and sidewalkers if necessary. All of this, combined with our safety rules, makes it quite unlikely that any of our horses would intentionally harm anyone.

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Where do you get the horses?
Most of the horses are donated or leased to SunCatcher. Many are retired ranch or competition horses. In a short time they understand their new job and settle right into the program. Most of our tack and equipment are donated as well - as a non-profit charity the donations are tax-deductible.

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What do you do if a kid acts out while on the horse?
We would ask the rider to calm down and try to redirect their energy. If that didn't work the rider would be pulled into the center of the arena (out of traffic) or taken out of the arena until they regained emotional control. If necessary, they would be taken off their mount and excused from the arena. This would be to ensure the safety of all. Frankly this rarely is necessary; the horse program seems to have a built-in incentive plan that encourages appropriate behavior.

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How much does it cost?
Our regular fee is $45 per hour - or whatever portion the participant can afford. This is actually about 1/3 of what it costs to run the program. Since we are a charity the IRS indicates that the remainder of the fee must be obtained by fund-raising, donations and an occasional grant. If you have a need for more financial support, please contact us and we can check into the option of "riderships" to help with some of the cost.

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How can I get involved with SunCatcher?
If you are interested in the SunCatcher program, you should contact the office at (605) 939-4907 or email us at suncatcherriding@gmail.com. SunCatcher welcomes new participants to the program. It also takes many volunteers to help with the program. If you are interested, you'll need to fill out some forms before you can participate or volunteer. Those forms can be found on the forms page, but call the office first to determine which forms you need.

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SunCatcher Therapeutic Riding Academy
P.O. Box 3975
Rapid City, South Dakota 57709