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Maple Park organization offers therapeutic riding

Noelle Brown, 9, rides Windy with help from volunteer Sam Dumbacher during her session at HorsePower Therapeutic Riding in Maple Park. HorsePower provides riding lessons for children and adults with disabilities.
Noelle Brown, 9, rides Windy with help from volunteer Sam Dumbacher during her session at HorsePower Therapeutic Riding in Maple Park. HorsePower provides riding lessons for children and adults with disabilities.

MAPLE PARK – Fox Chase Farm was alive with activity on a recent Friday. In one area, a young rider was preparing a horse for the evening’s activities. On the indoor track, youths on horses were engaged in lessons, with volunteers leading the horses around.

Most lessons featured the student, the horse, a leader and two side-walkers, and the horse would walk around an area of the track. In some stations, the horse would stop, and the student would take part in activities. Two lessons could take place at the same time.

It was a typically busy night for HorsePower Therapeutic Riding, a nearly year-old organization with a mission “to provide creative, inspiring and challenging therapeutic horseback riding lessons to children and adults with disabilities.”

Maple Park resident Carrie Capes, the program’s director, has been involved in such endeavors for years. Her 12-year-old son, Max, has a developmental disability: complex III deficiency mitochondrial metabolic disorder. Looking to do whatever they could to help, Capes and her family eventually tried therapeutic riding lessons, and she said it provided the most beneficial results.

Since then, she has sought to share the discovery with others in similar situations.

“He saw himself as capable and strong, and I’ve seen that with countless other students,” said Capes, who noted the exercise specifically builds core strength, meaning the muscles in the torso area.

Capes said she is grateful for the community support that HorsePower has enjoyed. Events and donations have provided equipment and helped participants who are in need. She said the group has begun the process of becoming a nonprofit organization.

But more is needed, she said, and the first major fundraising event for 2013 has been scheduled. A bowling event is set from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 19 at St. Charles Bowl, 2520 Main St., St. Charles. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for those ages 4 to 10. Each ticket holder gets three games and can have pizza and soda served at the lane.

Money raised can bring the organization closer to its goal of having a sliding scale for fees, which would help those who otherwise might have difficulty paying for the lessons, which start at $55 for a half-hour, $85 for an hour or $115 for 90 minutes.

“It’s not an inexpensive thing to provide,” Capes said. “If we were only providing it for those with wealth or the means … we’d be missing the mark.”

Capes said there are 23 lessons given a week involving seven horses that are boarded at Fox Chase Farm.

Students range from 4 years old to adult. Participants in the programs don’t have to be disabled. At a recent Friday session, Maggie Noble, a 10-year-old from Geneva, rode without the help of side-walkers because she has progressed enough that they are not necessary. Her father, John Noble, watched from a special viewing area nearby. Noble said he’s not sure there’s a name for any disorder Maggie might have, but he said doctors suggested activities for building her core. Horse therapy, he said, has “worked really well.”

“She is not afraid of these big animals,” Noble said. “She has never feared them.”

He said the activity has become essential for Maggie and “this is her thing.” He said the program has been a big help.

John Cain, the chairman of the board for HorsePower, said he has known Capes for years. He has watched youth and adult participants find success and confidence through the program, the horses are patient and the progress made by those in the program is inspiring.

“It builds skills in a sport that not everyone can do,” he said.

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