Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 13, 2013

Riding program raising money for larger arena

Program allows patients chance to regain some control over their lives

Mike James
The Independent

HAVER HILL, Ohio — Independent, in control, self-reliant — these are the words Mike Scarberry’s wife Nellie uses to describe her Vietnam veteran/steelworker husband.

A passionate golfer and avid hunter, Scarberry was at home in the outdoors.

But that all changed in 2009 when Scarberry, 62, suffered hemorrhaging that damaged his brain and left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak more than a few words.

He could still walk but the brain damage made it difficult to use his right hand and arm. He still could go outside but was confined to prosaic activities like pulling weeds.

A therapist at the Veterans Administration hospital suggested the therapeutic riding program at Ohio University Southern’s horse park and the Scarberrys checked it out. Two years after Scarberry mounted one of the specially trained therapy horses he is still taking weekly trips from their Chesapeake, Ohio home to ride at the indoor arena in Haverhill.

“He gets pleasure being in control of this huge animal. The horse likes him and he likes it. He gets some control back over his life,” Nellie Scarberry said.

Raetta Schenk’s son Dustin spent part of his childhood in a wheelchair; he has cerebral atrophy, which is a milder form of cerebral palsy and prevents his body from building muscle tone.

Raetta Schenk had been working with Dustin, now 31, in a fitness program. She was studying accounting at OUS and had taken a riding class at the horse park. When she heard about the therapeutic program she signed Dustin up.

It is a weekly experience that puts a grin on his face and instills confidence while it builds his muscles, she said. “Sometimes a challenged person can get on a horse and feel they have no challenges. The horse’s legs become their legs,” she said.

The therapeutic riding program is growing, from about 10 riders in the early days to more than 30 per week now, said director of equine studies Kelly Hall.

The horse park has four arenas now, two indoor ones used by the therapeutic program and two used by other equine studies classes.

Hall and other OUS leaders want to expand the park and build another outdoor arena for use in the therapeutic program. They are raising money for the expansion and need about $25,000.

Hall is seeking donors to make the expansion a reality.

Potential donors may contact Hall at (740) 354-9347.

The outdoor arena would be 200 feet long by 70 feet wide, more than twice the size of the largest current arena which is 90 feet long, Hall said.

It would be located in a part of the park further from the road and parking areas to provide privacy for riders. 

That would enhance the experience for some riders who are autistic and have difficulty with visual and aural distractions, Hall said.

Building a riding arena is not as simple as grading a flat surface. For adequate drainage it requires layers of rock, gravel and sand, Hall said.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.