PLAINFIELD — Debbie Anderson said that without the hard-working Strides to Success volunteers the annual Christmas with the Ponies and Santa event couldn’t happen.
“This is our ninth year for this event,” Anderson said. “This is the only time we are really open to the public. It’s so nice to welcome the public in to see what we do.”
Strides to Success offers a unique opportunity for adults and youth to approach therapy in a different way.
“We have 13 horses here and they each have their own personalities,” Anderson said. “People bring us their different life’s challenges and we work through them with the help of the animals.”
Each of the professional staff has been certified by EAGALA (Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Learning Association) and PATH International (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship.) Both are international organizations that provide accreditation, training, and certification in equine assisted learning and therapy.
Anderson said children will come to the facility with a wide range of behavioral challenges.
“We have counseling services for children,” she said. “They also work hands-on with the horses.”
Children can work on trust/bonding, accepting responsibility, self-regulation, courage to make changes, healthy decision making, developing healthy relationships, empathy, and anger management.
She said adults are also welcome to utilize the facility.
“We work with several veterans,” Anderson said. “We work with the Wounded Warriors program. Several veterans are coming home with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Working with the horses can help with problem solving and critical thinking skills.”
The Christmas with the Ponies and Santa event has become a tradition for the volunteers. They man each station and several projects leading up to the event like baking the cookies and preparing “reindeer games.”
Madison Love, 9, of Pittsboro, has been riding at Strides to Success for a few years. She volunteered her time by introducing Cindy, one of the therapy horses at the facility.
“I ride about once a week,” Love said. “I love getting to see the horses but mostly the people that work here.”
She said the staff at Strides to Success has become very special to her.
“I love it here,” she said. “Tonight I’m telling Cindy’s story. I have learned lots of things from her. She teaches about what is good and how to be kind.”
Anderson said the volunteers really make the event special for visitors.
“They do everything from getting ready to have visitors to baking all these wonderful treats,” she said. “It’s a good way to get the kids involved. They love to tell the horses’ stories.”
Strides to Success has also developed a partnership with Indy Reads. They provided a free book to any child who came to the fundraising event.
Strides to Success is a non-profit organization that uses fundraising to offset expenses. For more information, visit the website at www.stridestosuccess.org or call 838-7002.