Kent Association of Riding Therapy, Inc. (KART) was founded in 1984 to help children and adults with special needs enhance their social and developmental growth. KART uses a multi-faceted program involving therapeutic horseback riding, grooming and caring for the horse, and comprehensive classroom instruction.
KART is a Premier Accredited Center of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH, Int.) and an Agency of the United Way of Kent County, MD. We have specially trained, PATH certified instructors, who along with our wonderful volunteers and special horses, can change an individual’s life through an increase in self-esteem, confidence, coordination and balance, focus and physical improvements.
We currently serve five local schools in Kent County and the Easter Seals Camp Fairlee in Fairlee, MD at the Worthmore Equestrian Center every Wednesday and Thursday from 11:30-1:30. We serve over 150 riders per year, providing a free service for this very deserving community. We are fortunate to have such dedicated staff and volunteers for Fall, Winter, and Spring sessions. Our expenses run over $70K per year to train and maintain the horses, pay our certified instructors, and purchase special safety equipment for the riders including helmets, harnesses, customized ramps and special lifts to help those in wheel chairs.
KART is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization which is able to fulfill our mission thanks to people like you who generously donate their time and or financial support.
A Day at KART…
Volunteer groomers arrive about an hour and a half before the children are scheduled to arrive in order to groom and tack the horses.
Rain or shine, the school bus rolls up beside the barn, and the children start piling off. Volunteers greet them, and assign them to one of three rotating groups. One group heads to the riding ring; the second to the stable management area; and the third to a classroom devoted to equine education. Everyone gets a turn at each of the three activities.
The kids that will be riding first are fitted with their riding helmets by a volunteer, and then it is off to the riding arena where they will meet with the Riding Instructor, Marco Belperio, or “Mr. Marco”, as the kids call him. Mr. Marco quizzes the kids as to which horse they rode last week and asks if they can pick out their horse from the line-up of waiting horses. Each rider is escorted to his or her horse by a volunteer. The rider pats the horse on the neck and has a few words with him to get reacquainted, then pulls the stirrups down, and waits quietly by his horse until Mr. Marco comes to help him or her mount.
The lesson began when they selected their horse, but now it’s time to ride. The riders (and their side walkers and horse leaders as needed) guide their horses around the ring, turning right or left when instructed to do so, learning proper posture and how to guide the horse with the reins. Some of the learning is accomplished through exercises such as weaving the cones, but they also learn by playing games. The favorite is “red light green light.” In addition to specific riding skills, they are learning to listen, to focus, and to follow instructions. When the lesson is finished, the riders thank their horses with a pat, then thank the volunteers that have helped them, and, of course, Mr. Marco. Each rider dismounts and goes to the next session in either Classroom or Stable Management.
Meanwhile the group in Stable Management has been learning how to groom and care for a horse, how to clean stalls, polish saddles, and perform other “barn chores” under the supervision of the Stable Management Instructor. And, yes, they really do love to muck stalls!
Last but not least, in the Classroom, Instructors have been reinforcing lessons learned in the ring and the stable by teaching the riders such things as the names for parts of the horse, colors and breeds of horses, and types of saddles and bridles. Sometimes they have an art project related to horses, or they may sing songs about horses. A favorite song is “A Western Saddle Has a Horn, But It Doesn’t Go Beep! “
At the end of the two hour session, each child has spent time in all three areas; the school bus rolls back into the parking lot and returns them to school. There will be something fun to talk about with their schoolmates and family.
After the kids leave, the volunteers take the horses back to their stalls, remove tack, and clean up the area so it’s ready for the next day’s lesson.
Within all these activities, there are challenges for any level of ability and opportunities for developmental growth physically, socially, emotionally, and cognitively. Areas targeted for improvement during riding sessions are sequencing, patterning, motor control, eye-hand coordination, strength development, balance, focus, and discipline. In the Classroom, children learn additional language and cognitive skills by reinforcing what is learned in Riding and Stable Management.