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National riding conference to convene in Starkville
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Some people ride horses for relaxation, others for sport, but a conference coming in August to Mississippi State University is training people how to use horses as treatment tools.The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association is holding its Region 5 conference in Starkville Aug. 3 through 5. The NARHA conference is being hosted by the MSU Extension Service, and much of it will be held at the Mississippi Horse Park, Agricenter and Fairgrounds.
"This is the first time this annual conference has been held in a university setting instead of at a therapeutic riding center," said Mary Ford, Extension youth development specialist and conference coordinator. "This is an opportunity to showcase some of what Starkville and MSU have to offer."
Therapeutic riding is a universal term used to describe one of four aspects of riding for people with some type of disability. Some riding is simply for the fun of it, under the supervision of a trained instructor. Other therapeutic riding helps people with learning disabilities learn sequencing, such as following directions, and learning right and left.
A third type of therapeutic riding is for those people with disabilities who can ride alone and may want to compete in the Special Olympics or other organized events. Therapeutic riding also can be hippotherapy, or using a horse as a physical therapy treatment tool.
The NARHA conference is designed for anyone interested in learning more about therapeutic riding. Ford said Mississippi has just four therapeutic riding centers, while the other four states in the region have between 10 and 40 each.
"More than half a million people in Mississippi have some type of disability," Ford said. "This conference is a chance for us to educate those interested and promote therapeutic riding within our state."
Ford said the three aspects of therapeutic riding are safety first, setting individual goals for each rider and having fun doing the activity.
The conference has a varied and packed agenda. It begins with tours of MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine and the T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability. Educational sessions cover mounting and dismounting a horse, teaching strategies based on motor learning, liability insurance for horse operations, horse health issues, starting a therapeutic riding program and the benefits of using a gaited horse in these programs.
A special conference feature will be the presentation of a communicative device developed by the T.K. Martin Center that attaches to a horse's saddle.
T.E.A.M., or Therapeutic Equine Activity Member, is a member of NARHA and is operated through the MSU Extension Service's 4-H youth development program. It is for everyone 14 years or older who wants to get involved in therapeutic riding.
T.E.A.M. sponsors two therapeutic riding sessions a year. It is not a full-service therapeutic riding center, but hopes to encourage and support other centers across the state. T.E.A.M. operates out of the MSU Horse Park.
Registration for the Aug. 3 to 5 NARHA Region 5 conference is $75. Certain continuing education credits are available to conference participants. Contact Mary Ford at (662) 325-3350 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. A conference agenda and details are available online at msucares.com.