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Director Gwen Maddrix, left, guide Wounded Warrior veterans and children with special needs through therapeutic horse back riding programs at Bethlehem Therapeutic Riding Stables, a partner of Tally Ho Equestrian Center in Timmonsville. Bethlehem recently became a Premiere Path International facility, a distinguished honor that allows the stables to contract with the Wounded Warrior Project. Information To find out more about Bethlehem Therapeutic Stables, Tally Ho Equestrian Center, the Wounded Warrior Project or how you can volunteer or donate to the program, visit www.tallyhoequestriancenter.com. Posted: Sunday, April 13, 2014 6:00 pm BY LINDSAY S. BUCHANAN Morning News firstname.lastname@example.org
TIMMONSVILLE – Through a new contract with the Wounded Warriors program, wounded veterans in the Pee Dee and beyond now have a place to receive a special type of physical and emotional therapy at Bethlehem Therapeutic Riding Stables. Less than five years after starting a horse therapy program for children with physical and emotional disabilities, inspired by her own daughter, owner Gwen Maddrix is taking on a whole new challenge in working with veterans. Bethlehem, which is housed at Tally Ho Equestrian Center in Timmonsville, was able to take on the veterans project by obtaining a Premier status through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.), That’s no small feat for an organization with limited funds. Thanks in large part to a grant from local nonprofit Women in Philanthropy, Bethlehem was able to prepare and improve the stables, grounds, rings and trails of Tally Ho’s facilities and secure the contract. “That (grant) really was key in us being able to physically get the barn ready, and the majority of our money went to the trail and removing a lot of stumps and trees,” Maddrix said. “It was basically to the dime in helping us get ready, and I don’t think we would have been able to do it without that money.” The preparations weren’t without headaches, however, since the program originally was scheduled to have its testing around the same time that two ice storms hit the area early in the year. Ice damage set the testing back by several weeks and forced a lot of the preparations to have to be completed twice. But Maddrix said all of the hard work just made getting the news of their positive testing for Premier Status all the better. “We are so excited, because we had been working on it so hard,” she said. “It (the ice storms) made a mess. But we were saying, ‘This is going to happen no matter what.’” Now PATH Intl. will send out mass emails to the more than 6,000 eligible Wounded Warrior veterans in Bethlehem’s huge service area. “I’m really excited about the way the whole thing is coming together – the great need for the Warriors in our area – and there’s no one else that’s helping them (with horse therapy) in this service area,” Maddrix said. “Our service area goes all the way to the coast and all the way down to Charleston and over to Columbia. There’s nothing around us for 150 miles in this service area.” That’s a daunting prospect, but one the Bethlehem group is ready to take on. After already working with one Wounded Warrior for more than a year through a special contract, Maddrix and her team have seen the vast improvements and positive impact that horse therapy can have on a person trying to rehabilitate from severe injuries or conditions, and now they just want to help as many veterans as they can.
“There were so many times over the years where I would be ready to just put this down and say we’ve gone as far as we can with this, but God would just send me signs or a way to make it happen,” said Maddrix, who originally thought she would just help a small number of children. “Literally there would be something in my mail or someone would come into my life that we needed in this program. He just lined it all up.” Still, depending on the response Bethlehem receives from Wounded Warriors once the word gets out, the team probable will be in great need of volunteers to assist with the training. A great deal of effort goes into working with each student, including an instructor with a personalized lesson plan for each veteran or child’s individual goals – physical, mental or both – and often a physical and occupational therapist as well. “Depending on the disability, the manpower we have to have to physically lift them onto the horse – at some point we probably need to look at getting a mechanical lift,” Maddrix said. “We definitely need to recruit volunteers, especially a lot more men into the program ... preferably veterans who can work with their peers.” For now, Maddrix foresees working with the Warriors on weekday mornings and keeping the children’s program on weekends.
That leaves weekday afternoons and evenings for the stable’s original purpose – traditional horseback riding lessons. Katrina Hutto, owner and instructor of Tally Ho, said partnering with Bethlehem has been hugely beneficial to both programs. “It’s very unusual to see a school barn work with a therapy program,” she said, “but it works so well because the horses are conditioned and worked with on a regular basis and are prepared for the therapy students.” Tally Ho has also recently branched into a new area with an IEA (Interscholastic Equestrian Association) program that has middle and high school students competing at horse shows. The students draw a horse’s name to ride in the competition, making it possible for students who can’t afford their own horse to still compete. Hutto’s goals for Tally Ho ultimately mirror Maddrix’ goals with Bethlehem, making the two programs ideal for a partnership. “My big thing is teaching kids to be independent,” Hutto said. “I really want all the kids to be able to do it on their own. It’s so cool for them to know they can handle that animal and have that connection. We’ve seen a lot of kids go from being real meek and timid to running around the barn handling horses and chattering to everyone.” © 2014 SCNow. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. More Coverage ◾Timmonsville horse therapy program grows into a project for Wounded Warriors
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Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International