Who are we?
Saddle Pals is a program sponsored by United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Sacramento Inc. (UCP). UCP is a non-profit corporation that has served children and adults with various developmental disabilities since March of 1955. The vision of UCP is as follows: “United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Sacramento is steadfastly dedicated to empower people with developmental disabilities to live life without limits, to consistently expand our delivery of valued services to a growing and diverse community, and to excel at anticipating and meeting our clients’ ever changing needs.”
Saddle Pals Therapeutic Center provides therapeutic horseback riding, recreational and educational service to individuals who are physically, mentally, emotionally or otherwise challenged. Therapeutic riding is a means of using the horse and its movement as rehabilitative, recreational and therapeutic tool. It is a distinct method of rehabilitation that is different from both the traditional, clinical physical therapy and the traditional, recreational horseback riding.
Saddle Pals is unique in its approach because it offers weekly therapeutic horsemanship lessons, which encompass all activities associated with horse care and horsemanship, not just riding. This approach enables the students to develop a bond with the horse, learn the responsibilities associated with riding and animal care, expand their knowledge and skills and increase their independence, while having fun.
Combining the vision of UCP with the goals of the Saddle Pals program, the purpose of the Saddle Pals Club would be to:
• provide a safe and fun environment that would promote a positive exchange between people with or without disabilities;
• to encourage members to embrace each others differences;
• to promote self-esteem, encourage personal responsibility, and increase independence;
• to enhance the horsemanship skills of club members.
What have we done?
We have invited the program participants and volunteers at Saddle Pals to join a social club, free of charge, that centers around our interest in horses. The club meets for 1 ½ hour sessions on the first Saturday of each month for one year. The club could accommodates up to 40 individuals ages 8 and up.
The meetings are centered around learning about horses. Areas of interest have included topics such as parts of the horse, hoof care, feeding and nutritional needs of horses, equine first aid, types of gaits, breeds, colors and marking of horses. The meetings have also included field trips (horse shows, ranches, etc.) and guest speakers (vets, farriers, etc.). Club meetings also feature hands-on activities that promote interaction among members as well as learning skills necessary to working independently.
How have we made this project happen?
The Saddle Pals youth leaders (myself and another volunteer named Courtney) are responsible for the overall operation of the Saddle Pals Club. This includes:
• developing the “lesson plans” for a particular session insuring that the group has all the necessary materials to complete a specific project;
• working directly with Saddle Pals adult helper or other designated staff members;
• arranging for volunteer speakers; writing thank-you notes;
• making arrangements for field trips (renting the accessible bus, developing flyers highlight the activity, securing permission slips, securing volunteers to help with field trips, determining and collecting cost of entrance fees, etc.);
• purchasing the necessary supplies for snacks, arts and crafts projects, special equine needs;
• informing the agency sponsor about Club’s activities.
Why do we want to do this project?
The Saddle Pals Club is an important project because it benefits a variety of community members by bringing together, in a social setting, individuals who may or may not have a disability. It promotes socialization and acceptance among its members while fostering a team spirit. The feeling of being a valued member of a group can promote self-confidence and self-esteem among its members. The Saddle Pals Club has also provided an opportunity for a diverse group of individuals to gain knowledge and hands-on experience in various elements of horsemanship in a fun, supportive environment.