RideAbility began in 1997, founded by Ellen Newman, Mary Lubahn, and Lynne McCutcheon. Mary had given birth to a daughter with a disability and was afraid she would never get to take her daughter horse back camping or share the enjoyment of horses with her daughter. Mary’s neighbor (Ellen), with Mary, and her daughter’s pediatric physical therapist (Lynne) decided to research therapeutic riding.
The first year was financed by a grant from the Minnesota 4-H Foundation and the volunteers were members of the Roscoe Rockets Minnesota 4-H Club. Their Community Pride Project won a State Fair trip! What a fun way to start a therapeutic riding program. The project started with 3 students and grew quickly to 8 and then over 20 students.
RideAbility was recognized for: 1) Providing therapeutic recreation for children with disabilities 2) Emphasizing mental health rewards of interacting with peers (with and without disabilities) 3) Including parents as active program participants 4) Providing a support network for the parents with common life difficulties.
Ellen, Mary, and Lynne set-up and ran the program for five years and finished incorporating it as non-profit, setting up a board of directors, gaining United Way funding, and completing processes and forms, etc. The quality of services provided has always been excellent, much in part due to having a dedicated physical therapist involved from the very beginning.
We are very family centered, inspired by the original idea of providing horse back riding for children with disabilities and their siblings. This implememtation of inclusion is quite unique for a therapeutic horse back riding center. RideAbility received an award for inclusion in 1999, presented by Arc SE MN. Including the parents in the barn and arena as sidewalkers creates a special atmosphere allowing the successes to be taken home and the entire family dynamic to receive a positive impact. We think of it as: the magic of the horse going home to your living room!
We also provide events each year for the whole family, including: 1) Annual meeting themed for family fun 2) Barn Dance Fundraiser 3) Student Ride-A-Thon 4) Student Horse Show for students and families. These activities are in addition to the horse back riding classes that our students attend.
There are also opportunities for families and volunteers to help with the RideAbility parade float or horses in local parades during the summer months.
After more than ten years of RideAbility, Mary Lubahn’s daughter was riding independently, developing adaptive methods, owning her own horse, and (YES!) she has gone horse back camping with her mom 🙂