SMILES Therapeutic Riding Center
The 2011 Anchor’s Away Public Art Project is a creative, community-oriented fundraiser for a pretty impressive organization: Special Methods In Learning Equine Skills, Inc. Therapeutic Riding Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit located in scenic Darien, Wisconsin. Known locally as SMILES, the ambitious non-profit generates precisely that for persons with physical, cognitive and social/emotional disabilities . . . and so much more. Transcending traditional therapeutic methods, SMILES provides challenged individuals of all ages the unbridled joy of participating in an equine assisted program that offers immeasurable social, emotional, physical, and personal rewards that go far beyond the pleasure of horseback riding on the 35 picturesque acres in lake-laden southern Wisconsin.
Extensive research verifies the unique lateral, forward, up-and-down all at the same time movement of horseback riding simulates a person’s natural walking gait. For persons with disabilities this simulation encourages ambulation, works the diaphragm to strengthen speech capacity and can be customized by Physical and Occupational Therapists to target specific muscle groups or to mimic particular actions such as the hand-eye coordination achieved with a variety athletic activities, trunk rotation, arm extension, or simultaneous use of both arms. Feats which may seem relatively simple for many, but which are extremely complicated for people living with certain disabilities.
SMILES is the innovation of entrepreneur Sherry Monty, who enlisted the cooperation of experienced horse persons to inaugurate a one-night-per-week therapeutic equine instruction program in 1985, which has evolved into the present day non-profit. Since its inception, the program has grown from seven students to more than 330 students per year, with 5 full-time employees, 5 instructors, more than 300 incredible volunteers and 20 magnificent horses. The organization has earned accreditation with NARHA as a Premier Center, which now integrates certified instructors, marvelous caring volunteers who have been specially trained, specialized equipment and some of the most gentle and beautiful horses in the area. The expanded facility consists of a 160’ by 66’ heated/cooled indoor arena; a 100’ by 200’ outdoor arena; 20-stall horse stable; tack room; therapy room; fenced pasture areas; hay storage building; outdoor shelter for horses; sensory garden; sensory horse trail; car port with automatic doors; HEARTS ramp designed for different usage levels; plus lounge, kitchen and office areas.
But the real story about SMILES, the most important aspect of the marvelous work they do, is the quantitative and qualitative results that have been achieved for people with disabilities. And because it is focused on these types of results, the program relies almost entirely upon donations, eliminating the burden of cost issues for those who truly need this unique therapeutic experience.
Since all of the proceeds from the 2011 Public Art Project benefit the phenomenal work of SMILES, the community, the county and even the region embrace both the art project and the non-profit. So, what can you do? Take your pick: If you’re a talented artist, submit a proposal to decorate one of the fiberglass sailboats or Woodies. Have a local business in Walworth County? Then sign up now to be a sponsor to display one of the masterfully decorated craft this summer; they’re great for attracting customers! Even if you are not geographically situated to support the 2011 Public Art Project, support SMILES with your maximum donation and be sure to attend the fun-filled Kick-Off event on June 5 and/or the Auction on September 25 at the luxurious Abbey in Fontana, Wisconsin. And you can do it all at www.smiles.nu or by calling 262 882-3470.
Even tweeting the link to this article can help by sharing this exciting event with others who can participate in this history making event. Then, just smile, knowing you did your special part for the 2011 Anchor’s Away Public Art Project. Feels good, doesn’t it?!?!