Trip to Nickers and Neighs provides exercise, relaxation for Southmoreland Primary Center students
By Kelly Vernon
Published: Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Amazing things happened when students in the autism support class at Southmoreland Primary Center experienced the world of therapeutic horseback riding at Nickers and Neighs in Donegal on a recent field trip.
Renee Miklos was brought to tears after viewing a video of her son, Ryan, interacting with the horses. She could not believe her eyes as she watched her son grooming and riding the horses, especially since Ryan has such a fear of all animals. She said he seemed so calm and grounded when he was riding.
Miklos added it was amazing to see the transformation of her son in such a short period of time working with the staff at Nickers and Neighs. She plans to register him for regular lessons at the facility.
“The facility and what they do for children with disabilities is simply amazing. I saw my son's personality coming out as he groomed and rode the horse,” she stated.
Lin Podolinsky, Nickers and Neighs executive director, visited Kelly Most's classroom at Southmoreland Primary Center prior to the field trip to meet the students. This was necessary to develop individualized lesson plans. Some of the students had lesson objectives of steering their horse independently, while others had goals of learning to communicate go and stop to their horses.
Upon arrival to the facility, the staff first introduced the students to the horse. After a brief introduction to the horses and therapeutic riding staff, the students mounted the horse. Students had an opportunity to warm up by relaxing and discovering the rhythm of the horse.
All of Nickers and Neighs instructors are Pennsylvania Council on Therapeutic Horsemanship Qualified instructors and Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International Registered instructors. They also are required to complete continuing education courses in the field that includes course work on topics such as autism spectrum disorders, and many other disabilities.
Podolinsky said riding is a sport that allows an individual to exercise the body in addition to the mind. Posture, balance, body awareness and core strength are all athletic areas that riding a horse addresses. Communication and understanding the signals that the horse gives also are important aspects of the sport. She added communication and understanding body language are both areas in which students with autism still need to develop.
“Helping kids overcome their fears is probably more rewarding to us as a staff than it is for the student,” Podolinsky said.
Most said the field trip was made possible by a Westmoreland Intermediate Unit Foundation Impact Grant worth $1,000. After researching the benefits of therapeutic horseback riding for children with autism, she contacted Nickers and Neighs. The staff at the facility provided Most with pilot studies, lesson plans and plenty of information to convince her that it would be a wonderful field trip for her students.
Another parent, Desiree Pollard, also was affected by the enthusiasm in her son after the field trip. Pollard said it took her son Cole away from his daily routine and introduced him to an exciting activity. She explained Cole's autism causes him to have difficulty relaxing and opening up around his peers. In the relaxed environment of the riding center, he let down his guard and emotionally bonded with the horse. Pollard was so pleased with the outcome, she contacted Nickers and Neighs to set up riding lessons.
“My students were elated with excitement as soon as we pulled onto the long driveway. The smiles on their faces were priceless,” stated Most.
Most said the staff at Nickers and Neighs used the horses to work on numerous thing such as strengthening social, communication and behavioral skills. Additionally, students worked on following and procession verbal directions, academic goals and physical development of gross motor skills, increased flexibility, balance and muscle strengthening. Most would like to make therapeutic riding an extension of her classroom work next year if funding was available.
“The staff at Nickers and Neighs took on an important role to ensure all of my students felt comfortable and safe with the horse. I was extremely impressed by their ability to stay positive even through my students' high level of anxiety and hesitation,” said most.
Most was impressed at the impact the field trip had on her students. She said some students showed confidence when riding their horse with instructors and a feeling of accomplishment with an activity that was outside their comfort level, displayed less repetitive behaviors increased speech and extended their language skills.
Kelly Vernon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Agreement nears on Springdale police chief’s duties
- A-K Valley students offer F.R. Strong support
- Starkey: Fleury’s future at stake
- Victory on Friday could propel Bunola’s Salka into title fight
- Governor signs child abuse protection bills
- Legal experts question prosecuting South Fayette boy for recording bullies
- Bronze flower vases stolen from cemetery
- Watch out for the freeze
- Five years later, Crosby wants another Cup win
- Leechburg adds 2 part-time police officers
- Punxsutawney driver gets jail sentence for fatal crash