Junior provides horsemanship lessons through therapy internship

By Katy Bond

Torey Roberts sits in front of a horse on a lawn.

Photo by Katy Bond

​Torey Roberts, a junior animal science: animal agribusiness and public health promotion major from Lafayette, Ind., shared her knowledge of horses during a summer internship at Therapeion Therapeutic Riding Center. ​Full-size image (111 KB)

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​One of the most rewarding experiences Torey Roberts had last summer was one of the simplest. It happened when one of her students, a 3-year-old, spoke during a horse-riding lesson for the first time — she said "green."

​"She had a small vocabulary at home, but she would never speak during lessons," said Roberts, a junior animal science: animal agribusiness and public health promotion major from Lafayette, Ind. "We knew playing cognitive games could build her vocabulary, but we had to find a way to get through to her."

​Roberts had a summer internship at the Therapeion Therapeutic Riding Center, a small farm in Brookston, Ind. The center offers horse-riding lessons to individuals with disabilities, at-risk youth and veterans. Therapeion's goal is to help riders build physical strength and cognitive skills.

​Roberts worked with many different riders, but they all shared a desire to learn about horses. Roberts said her riders improved with each lesson and were always positive — even those affected by physical issues.

​"Our oldest rider is 64 years old and has ridden her whole life," Roberts said. "She was paralyzed in an accident, so it has been wonderful to see her get back on a horse and enjoy herself."

​The riders aren't the only ones benefitting from the program. Many of the horses at Therapeion were donated or adopted from horse rescue organizations. Roberts said she was astounded to see how horses were transformed after coming to the farm.

​"One of our best horses we use with the wheelchair ramp was a stallion that had been abused when we got him," Roberts said. "He has become such a great horse now, and really seems to love the attention he gets."

​Roberts said the horse must be well-behaved and willing to stand still, because many of the riders in the program are wheelchair-bound. An impatient horse would be dangerous. If the horse walks away while the rider is mounting, the riders could fall.

​The program also helped Roberts. She took away many lessons from her summer internship, including the importance of organization.

​"You really start to understand time management when you have a group of hungry horses that are ready to be fed," Roberts said. "They definitely know when you are late to a feeding."

​In addition to working at Therapeion, Roberts attended summer classes and coached gymnastics.

​"You learn to designate time for each activity," said Roberts. "It's easy to become overwhelmed, but there are ways around it."

​Robert said the moments she shared with individuals in the program are rewarding experiences she will carry with her.

​"No matter your life situation, you have to realize there are two ways to look at everything," said Roberts. "You can either choose to be positive and overcome obstacles, or you can be negative. I realized that a positive attitude can get you far." ​