The simple fact is enough to keep Paula Martel holding the reins of the Sudbury Therapeutic Riding Program.
Every spring, summer and fall, riders with some form of disability have the chance to experience a newfound freedom on the back of a horse, and develop a love and appreciation for the animals. Watching bonds form and smiles grow is just part of what makes running the program so worthwhile, Martel said.
The STRP is currently based at her farm, the home of Paula's Canine Country Club, in Val Caron. This year, 42 riders aged four to 60-something are part of the program.
Conditions like cerebral palsy, downs syndrome, stroke, brain injuries, birth defects, muscular dystrophy, autism, development delays, multiple sclerosis and hearing and visual disabilities qualify riders to take part in the program, which offers riding sessions once a week over five-week periods to horse lovers.
Martel said the program is so effective because “it's something that's their own.”
“It's amazing to see riders' faces light up when they're riding,” she said.
In order to keep offering the program to those who benefit from it, STRP has to raise funds themselves. Money goes toward looking after the horses and ensuring both animal and human have safe, appropriate equipment.
On Sept. 29, the charitable organization is hosting a ride-a-thon, where the community is invited to see the riders in action, sponsor a rider or make a donation to the program as a whole. Events get underway at 9 a.m. and wrap up around 4 p.m. at the STRP base, located at 1000 Main St. A barbecue will be set up, and information on the program will be available.
In case of rain, the event will be rescheduled for Sept. 30.
For more information, visit www.strp.ca or phone Martel at 705-897-8212.