Rachel loves horseback riding at Camp Cheerful! She started her lessons eleven years ago when she was 16 years old, and has been riding ever since. When Rachel first began, she needed to use the wheelchair lift to mount her horse. “When Rachel first started riding, she had no trunk control, and needed a side walker on each side of the horse,” said her mother, Nancy. Rachel was determined to build her strength and coordination in order to use the three-step mounting block to mount her horse. Her mother continued, “now she can hold her trunk upright, trot, and sometimes she doesn’t even need a side walker. By strengthening her trunk and core muscles of her body, it helps her transfer to and from her wheelchair, and for standing upright and walking. This has made a really big difference, and she loves it.” Rachel added proudly, “I use the mounting block now, and a western saddle.”
The Therapeutic Horsemanship program includes families in many activities. Rachel’s mother, Nancy, remembers one particularly memorable activity. “Camp Cheerful had an event where the families could come out and ride the same horses that their children rode. My husband, my other daughter, and I rode Nick, Rachel’s favorite horse. Nick didn’t want to listen to what we said, but when Racel got on him, he did everything that Rachel asked him to do. It was amazing to see how Nick responded to Rachel. It showed me how much of a connection there was between Rachel and Nick.”
Since being introduced to Camp Cheerful through her Therapeutic Horseback Riding lessons, Rachel has enjoyed many other programs at camp such as summer day camp and respite weekends. She now is a part of our year-round River Rock Adult day program. She looks forward to monthly respite weekends, planning and packing way ahead of time. She sleeps in the cabins with her friends, and says it’s like a big sleepover. At the end of the weekend, she excitedly shares stories from the weekend with her family, and starts planning her next respite weekend at Camp Cheerful.