By Christian Dischler
On Mondays I drive down winding roads and watch the woods open up into expansive fields resembling tranquil green waves. The gridlock of the interstate lingers in my mind as I try to focus on the present moment. It’s a fleeting reprieve from the everyday chaos, but its impact is exponential. I wave back to the fields while gratitude for the opportunity I’m heading towards surrounds me.
My destination is New Heights Therapeutic Riding Center, a non-profit organization founded in 1998, specializing in hippotherapy and adaptive riding, which “focuses on teaching students the skills of riding while also working towards holistic goals such as improved mood, self-discipline, improved self-esteem, patience and focus.”
I arrive and head inside the stables, “Volunteer” adorning the back of my shirt. The air is calm here and the horses are quiet except for the occasional neigh. Their eyes greet me with the intensity of my own as I prepare the horse I’ll lead today. All groomed and saddled up, we wait for the fun to begin.
Soon the stables are bustling with riders, family members, volunteers and employees. We congregate briefly to catch up, with each outburst of laughter separating me further from the notion of an interstate. Everyone is engaged in the moment, and joy permeates the once quiet air. The riders clip on their helmets and we head out to begin the therapy session.
The sessions are led by PATH certified professionals Vicki and Mareike, whose attention to detail and awareness of the riders’ needs is impeccable. Their patience, wisdom and guidance help the riders focus on enjoying themselves while practicing physical and intangible skills. They employ a variety of integrated exercises, with the riders encouraging one another and using their balance to stabilize on the horse while practicing hand eye coordination.
But above all the imagery, laughter and lessons learned, there’s transcendent purpose happening. The riders are engaging with one another and the animals alike. They’re being woven into the fabric of a community while also experiencing independence. You can sense the personal growth occurring and it’s not exclusive to anyone. All of us are becoming better versions of ourselves, embracing generosity to the point where time seems to stand still.
It’s a concept fading faster than we’d like to admit. But it’s never too late to take that leap towards benevolence. Even one step in that direction not only radiates throughout those you help; it reciprocates to you as a reward without definition. In a world that feels chaotic, giving your time towards a meaningful purpose can be a mindful practice that resonates infinitely.
I can promise you what good it’s done for me, but more importantly for those who continue to benefit from the incredible service and atmosphere of New Heights.
The session concludes and none of us discuss the magnitude of the experience. Perhaps there are no words, only smiles and unspoken emotions. I say my goodbyes as the riders prepare to leave and we wave to one another, like the rolling fields surrounding us.
Learn more about New Heights Therapeutic Riding Center and how to donate or volunteer by visiting www.newheightstherapy.org or calling (985) 796-4600.