80 families depend on its therapeutic horseback riding program
PLAINFIELD – Wearing her pink helmet, 20-year-old Kathleen Dailey goes to the Ready Set Ride stables in Plainfield regularly for lessons as therapy for her Down syndrome.
Her mother, Susan Dailey of Naperville, has been bringing her since 2016, and said it has improved her low tone of voice and mobility. She also feels more confident in speaking.
“Since she started horse therapy, she is more mobile and she is not afraid,” Dailey said.
About 80 riders with various disabilities depend on Ready Set Ride for the riding lessons that provide them with therapeutic benefits. Dailey said she has seen how it has positively affected her daughter, Kathleen, since they started.
“Especially as children get older and become a young adult, they want confidence and to have independence in a structured environment," Dailey said. "It gives us a great sense of happiness, and makes Kathleen feel like she’s more in control of things, her environment, and she has more confidence to try thing that she wouldn’t before."
All 14 horses are trained to respond to commands the riders say. In addition to riding, the children play games and do exercises on the horses. Lisa Afshari, director of Ready Set Ride, said the children smile as they ride, and they have a good time.
“Animals don’t judge,” Afshari said. “And when they come to the barn all the kids are just like them.”
Dawn Hansen of Plainfield takes her 14-year-old son, Josh, for lessons. He has been riding with Ready Set Ride since he was 2 years old. Josh was diagnosed with spastic pelagic cerebral palsy at a young age, so he suffers from extremely tight muscles that the horse therapy helps.
The horses help children such as Josh in different ways by strengthening and loosening the child’s muscles. Laying on the horse applies heat loosening muscles, while riding sitting up or with a partner that supports the rider stretches muscles that may not be used as much.
“The horse is helping to improve their motor coordination and balance," Afshari said. "The horse is the only animal with the same pelvic structure as humans, so it allows the muscles to learn the movement of walking and helps maintain those muscles through the working and muscle memory."
For Josh, it is helping him learn the motions of how to walk.
“The horse has helped him figure out how to move his hips and his legs,” Dawn Hansen said.
Hansen also said that the stable provides a place where families in similar situations can come together.
“They have a place where they belong," Hansen said. "They make friends, and all the kids love being around the horses. They have a sense of independence being able to do things for themselves where the kids basically have to have everything done for them all the time."
Hansen said she was heartbroken to hear that Ready Set Ride was being evicted. Both Hansen and Dailey said they couldn’t imagine life without the barn.
“The kids look forward to doing this. It brings them happiness and joy; it doesn’t feel like therapy to them," Hansen said. "We’re hoping something can be worked out so the horses are not displaced and the organization can continue to assist the kids."
Since receiving the eviction notice, Afshari claims that many people have reached out to her to try to help.
“We have had an overwhelming amount of support,” Afshari said.
Other therapy barns have called and offered to house some of Ready Set Ride’s horses. One stable in Nevada offered to take them all in to avoid separating the horses. Afshari is grateful, but hoping they still can save the stable.
“Our first goal is to stay where we’re at and buy it outright from the bank,” Afshari said. “Second would be finding a location where our riders wouldn’t have to travel far. And our third option is not one we want to go to yet, but I’m confident that all our horses would have a home to go to.”
For information, visit 815-439-3659 or visit www.readysetride.org.