A whole new (four-legged) world at North Country RIDE

Minnesota organization helps clients find growth and healing through a connection with horses

Chase was introduced to North Country RIDE a few years ago—and it wasn’t long before he was sitting tall in the saddle.

Chase’s cerebral palsy affected his legs, “and when we first saw him he was struggling with walking and had his head held down,” recalls Tamy Horyza, executive director of North Country RIDE, an equine therapeutic riding program.

“We realized that this is a kid who lacks confidence around his peers because he can’t walk like everyone else,” she adds. “Our goal with him was to help build confidence with his walking, using the horses as his point of confidence, and to build his strength. We could immediately see him thriving, just riding and being around the horses.”

Based in Esko, Minnesota, North Country RIDE helps clients improve strength, coordination and balance, develop self-awareness and build self-confidence— all while developing an incredible bond with an equine companion. Established 37 years ago, North Country RIDE offers four sessions a year, using a 12-horse stable.

“Some riders don’t have feeling or control of their legs, for example. So we put them up on a horse, and maybe for the first time in their life they're actually walking, not using their legs, using the legs of a horse,” explains Horyza.

“People come in with a diagnosed disability and we help them find their ability. To see the power that the rider feels when they're up and moving without a wheelchair—there's nothing like it.”

North Country RIDE is working towards adding a program for veterans in the future, but the programs are expensive to run as they require a licensed therapist on-site during classes.

Enbridge is committed to improving the quality of life in communities near our operations. Our recent donation of $3,500 to North Country RIDE will allow the organization to increase instructor hours and take on more riders to grow its offerings, while working towards establishment of that veteran program.

Chase has returned to the program every year, as his walking has improved, and his volunteer work now helps others reach their goals.

“You wouldn’t recognize him as the same kid that first came to us,” says Horyza. “His whole demeanor has changed; you can see how much confidence he has in himself now. He loves to have his story shared.”

(TOP PHOTO: Chase rides Weaver as North Country RIDE volunteer Rachael helps him learn a riding pattern.)