What's Working? Horse Rider Gives Disabled Children a Lift

Bridge students ride high on their saddles. When nine-year-old Shelby rides her horse Donnie, she feels on top of the world.

"Well, I like him so much and he loves me," Shelby said.

You'd never know that these kids face bigger hurdles in life. Bridge riding instructor Pat Howe knows all too well.

"These are kids who maybe aren't playing sports but here on the horse, they are stars. They're doing something that maybe their siblings aren't doing. And they're excelling at it," Howe said.

For the past four years Howe has run Bridge Riding for the Disabled at her stable in Lebanon. She teaches special needs students to grab the reins and let go of any fears.

"Just in the last couple of years, an 11-year-old girl who didn't speak, said her first words in the arena. I think that's very important. It's remarkable because, it's like with the horses, for a minute she forgot that she couldn't do it and then she could," Howe said.

Volunteer Barb Pfantz has ridden horses for 50 years, but has never met riders more courageous than her students at Bridge Riding for the Disabled.

"At the beginning some are scared of the horses or don't want to get on, and then by the end they're running up and can't wait to get on the horses. The horses make a huge difference in their lives," Pfantz said.

The volunteer program is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. But Pat wants it to continue after its founder Jane Kellerman lost her battle to breast cancer in 2008.

"Jane was my mentor when I was getting certified, and we knew each other for 12 years. We were good friends. We wanted to make sure that it was something that she could be proud of," Howe said.

Bridge Riding for the Disabled must raise $25,000 this year to cover its costs.

- Stephanie Woods