Discovery Riders back in the saddle after COVID-19 shutdown

"Discovery Riders is this amazing place where you get to watch students grow, gain confidence, and become meeting their own goals.  The parents see their child grow and thrive. That is the magic of Discovery Riders." 
- Sarah Potts, Discovery Riders Program Director


Andrea Davidson has ALWAYS loved horses.
"She's been interested in horses ever since she was real little," said her mother, Melanie.  "We couldn't ever go into Tractor Supply without buying one of the miniature horses."
But Andrea's Mom never thought they'd be THIS much a part of her life. 
"Then we discovered she had special needs.  And then she got involved through school.  Once she aged out school-wise, we've just continued after that."
The Davidsons turned to therapeutic riding to help their daughter improve her motor and cognitive skills.  Now, the 22-year old Andrea has been attending sessions at Discovery Riders and their new, state-of-the-art facility in Bellefontaine.  The United Way-funded agency is a regionally-acclaimed facilty where their PATH-certified staff and horses specialize in bringing out the best in people.   
"For parents with kids with challenges, they go to the grocery store and their kid acts a little funny or is socially awkward and people avoid or they don't know," said Sarah Potts, Discovery Riders Program Director.  "And when they come here, it's fine.  We believe and we see what your kid can do and we're going to make it happen for them."
"We started for responsibility, posture, balance," and Melanie.  "She has trouble with her right and left.  So this helps her to think.  Because you have to do one rein, right or left.  So she has to stop and think about which one's my right and which one's my left.  You can tell she definitely has a connection with the horse.  She loves coming here."
Incredibly, the skills learned in the barn transfer to real life at home, work, and school.
"Andrea was able to tell you all of the steps to get the horse ready," Potts said.  "Those are the same skills she needs when she goes to work.  To be able to remember the order of the steps, how she's supposed to do them, to what degree does she do them.  And that's what Discovery Riders is able to do in a fun and encouraging environment." 
"I think for kids with special needs, it's something for them to be a part of," said Melanie.  "Not only to help them physically, mentally.  They get to interact with adults and other kids their own age.  And this may be the only social interaction they get."  
YOUR United Way gift makes scholarships possible for families like the Davidsons to participate.  
"At least two-thirds of our participants would not be able to pay the full amount and without the help of United Way, we would not be able to ride them," Potts said.  "We wouldn't be here, we wouldn't be able to serve all these people.  We don't turn anybody away because they can't afford it.  If you wouldn't normally be able to ride a horse?  Here, it's a possibility."