Chatham area residents and supporters of the Acceptional Riders program at TJ Stables were taken back to the time of knights and jousting at the Knights of Valour Charity Jousting performance Friday night.
A fundraiser for the AR program, the Knights of Valour have been putting on a show in Chatham for the past eight years, according to Terry Jenkins, owner of TJ Stables. For 45 minutes Friday, the Knights put on a display of real jousting, with shattered lances, a couple of unseatings and an injury to Dame Jaclyn, a female jouster who walked off under her own steam after taking a hit to her face, causing a split lip.
TJ Stables has a great relationship with the Knights of Valour team, who Jenkins said donated the use of the pony, Lancelot, for the program.
Before the jousting, trick riders from the Canadian Cowgirls team wowed the large audience with fast-paced riding while hanging upside down from the saddle.
The charity show included a demonstration by riders in the AR program, who with the help of volunteers, showcased the skills they have learned while being introduced by Jenkins.
The program, started by Jenkins and equine therapist Cathy Hanson in 1992, is a charitable therapeutic riding program for children to adults with disabilities, to learn horsemanship and riding skills.
“We started with six kids in the backyard and now we have 180 riders annually and a total of 80 volunteers – 40 in the spring and 40 in the fall sessions,” Jenkins noted.
Jenkins said the program generally is for kids up to 14 years of age, but she makes sure the program is open to anyone, including a current rider who is 79 years of age.
People can call the program and identify the needs of the rider, and Jenkins said they will customize sessions that match those needs, including any equipment that might be needed.
And that is where the importance of fundraisers and donations come in. There is no government funding for the program to subsidize the cost of the eight-week sessions, which is why they rely on donations and generous corporate sponsors. She said they keep the cost to riders as reasonable as possible at $225 per session, but the largest cost is insurance and specialized equipment.
People with hearing issues, mobility, PTSD and even stroke victims can benefit from therapeutic riding, Jenkins said.
“The program can benefit anyone. Anyone with a challenge – autism, Downs Syndrome, cerebral palsy, limb anomalies, attention deficit disorder, developmental delay, attention and emotional disorders. Actually, there are very few disabilities that cannot benefit from horseback riding. Anxiety, depression, trauma, shyness and behavioral issues,” Jenkins said. “The motion of the horse stimulates and unlocks the brain so people with autism do really well.”
The next session is coming up this Sept. 17 on Monday nights for eight weeks. To find out more about the program and how to register, please call 519-354-7517.