As part of his SMART goal Joe is making a trip down memory lane – on horseback.
The Belle River resident is taking part in therapeutic riding twice a month at an accessible stable in Chatham.
“The therapeutic riding allows him to have a sense of accomplishment and independence from his wheelchair,” said Joe’s mom Cathy Chauvin.
Joe’s SMART goal also involves getting out into the community and doing things that he enjoys.
The Chauvin family home is adorned with photos of Joe. One of those photos gave intervenor Liz Perry the idea to suggest therapeutic riding as part of Joe’s SMART goal. In the photo, Joe is on horseback and has a giant smile on his face.
“It put it in my head. It looked like something he really enjoyed. It all came from seeing the picture,” Liz said.
Liz was familiar with TJ Stables and arranged the first 30-minute therapeutic riding session. Joe’s parents were on board. Joe had ridden at TJ Stables when he was younger and so had his siblings.
“He really enjoyed it the first time he went,” Liz said.
On visit No. 2, “Joe’s face lit up when he got the scent of the stable,” she added.
An extra benefit for Joe from the riding is improved core strength. Joe rides using a gait belt.
“Joe is using his own core strength to support himself,” Liz said.
The stable has motorized lift to help get Joe on and off the pony named Dobber that he rides.
TJ Stables features “Acceptional" Riders, a charitable therapeutic riding program for children and adults with disabilities, to learn horsemanship and riding skills. The program has been running since 1992.
“We are really enjoying working with Joe and glad he’s joined our program,” said Cynthia from TJ Stables.
Benefits of therapeutic riding include improved confidence, concentration, motor planning, strength, balance and posture. Horses, volunteers and instructors receive special training to ensure a safe, effective and fun program. Each rider has an individualized program in a group setting, taught by qualified riding instructors and a therapeutic riding therapist.
Joe’s team used brochures and photos to create an experience book for him. They even included a bit of Dobber’s winter hair, which the pony is shedding.
“It is amazing to see Joe ride the horse. He seems to really have missed this activity which he used to do as a child. Great shout out to Liz who found this place and the parents for being supportive and always ensuring Joe has the opportunity to be fully connected and involved with his community,” said intervenor services coordinator Richard Crowley.