By Audrey Kayser
Steven, 16, had been diagnosed with Schizophrenia. He was extremely shy, timid and deliberately avoided conversation. When he arrived at the Back Bay Therapeutic Riding Club (BBTRC), he required the assistance of three people to help him stay on his tiny horse. His legs were shaking. Two people had to hold his legs even when the horse was at a walk. One day, a 17 hand warmblood was donated to BBTRC. It was extremely large. Bernadette Olsen, the founder of BBTRC, invited Steven to ride the horse. Steven then confidently climbed onto the horse without any help, and rode it at a walk and a trot all on his own. His life was significantly changed from that day on.
Steven is just one of over 200 people that have been impacted by Back Bay Therapeutic Riding Club. For over 10 years, BBTRC has been helping by “improving the bodies, minds, and spirits of all children, youth, and adults with physical and/or developmental disabilities” by engaging them in age and skill appropriate activities through therapeutic horseback riding. On May 21, BBTRC hosted a fundraiser event which included delicious barbeque and drinks, a live auction, silent auctions, a riding demonstration, and a lively concert performed by the Brothers Osborne, fresh off their ACM win for Vocal Duo. This entertaining and enjoyable event was located at an impressive house overlooking the Back Bay in Newport Beach, California.
Tickets sold for $150 each. Over 300 guests and 50 volunteers attended. Upon arrival, the guests watched a demonstration of the therapeutic horseback riding. Then, they walked to the house and viewed the artwork that would be in the live auction. Outside, in the brisk breeze, there were tables holding the silent auction items, a stage, barbecue, and drink bars. The live auction items included luxury vacations, unique artwork, and a signed guitar by the Brothers Osborne themselves. Towards the end of the night, the Brothers Osborne strode onto the stage to perform. As they sang, couples and children made their way to the front of the stage to dance. The energy of the crowd and the band could be both heard and felt as the sun set. Back Bay Therapeutic Riding Club’s goal to raise $100,000 was generously exceeded. The fundraiser event was a big hit.
Back Bay Therapeutic Riding Club’s facility is located in a neighborhood in the Back Bay area behind a modest home. The front gate creaks loudly as it opens. At the end of the walkway is the tack room on the left and the grooming station on the right. The tack room has hooks to hang the lead ropes, bridles, and other tack. Saddles and saddle pads are draped over wood pegs. At the grooming station, there is horse hair everywhere as volunteers groom the horses. The horses that are not being groomed roam around in a gated area where the stables are. The stables are made of metal and wood with hand painted name plaques next to each one with the horse’s name. In the gated area are also a goat pen with two goats named Luke and Angie, and a chicken coop. Next to this area is a small riding arena where the students have their riding lessons. There is also a donkey pen with two spunky mini donkeys named Scout and Izzy.
“There are a lot of benefits of therapeutic horseback riding. It comes from physical to mental.” says Alice Krezymon, the program manager and therapist at BBTRC. Some of the physical benefits include: the building up of core muscles, using the legs, stretching and holding up the upper body, holding up the neck, and head control. A few of the social benefits of therapeutic horseback riding are: socializing with people, bonding with the animals, building confidence and self esteem, and giving the rider a fun and engaging outdoor activity.
Despite being a small facility, serving approximately 23 students and run by about 20 staff and volunteers a week, Back Bay Therapeutic Riding Club makes a dramatic impact in the community and in the lives of many different people.