By Hector Trujillo
Dozens of San Diego County residents and their children took part in the 11th annual "Derby Day" Therapeutic Riding Show at Helen Woodward Animal Center on Saturday, May 2.
The four-hour event, which featured 41 riders with varying degrees of physical and mental disabilities, divided the riders into three skill sets. Each of the skill sets allowed the riders to display their abilities including equestrian, dressage and jumping.
"Many of these kids spend their weekends watching siblings play baseball or soccer. This weekend their brothers and sisters watch them be the stars of the show," said therapeutic riding manager Alicia Roe.
"This is fabulous because it gives the children a sense of self-esteem which is very therapeutic," Joan Latz said. "Our daughter has been riding for 10 years now. It also is good for her because she gets to be around her friends and enjoy herself."
Latz's daughter Casey, 13, was among the first set of riders at the annual event. Now a seventh-grade student, Casey also enjoys playing the drums and taking a dance class.
After each skill set performed, the riders received a blue ribbon of achievement for their performance. The center also provides scholarships for families who wish to take part in the activities but are unable to due to financial reasons.
"We offer this scholarship program because some of the families are so strapped because of medical expenses," said center spokesperson John Van Zante. "We never want to turn away a child in need due to financial reasons."
The center's Therapeutic Riding program was the first North American Riding for Handicapped Association Accredited [NARHA] program in San Diego County.
Jacqui Grande of Oakridge Farm in Ranch Santa Fe donated the 10 horses used for the event.