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Riding center brings joy to many

Eva Forgeron is all smiles as she participates in a session at Ride Above Disability Therapeutic Riding Center. (courtesy of Ride Above Disability)

Riding center brings joy to many

Ride Above Disability Therapeutic Riding Center shares heartwarming stories of Scripps Ranch riders who are participating in the program.

By Patricia Overton

Ride Above Disability (RAD) Therapeutic Riding Center, located in Poway, has something to celebrate this holiday season and every season for that matter. With heartwarming stories coming from this riding center, Scripps Ranch riders are participating in rewarding experiences.

RAD founders Allie Sarnataro, Katie Cram and Wayne Jackson first opened their doors in 2014 with the hopes of creating an alternative therapy program to help make a difference in the lives of their riders, as well as to provide an affordable program for families in need. They have accomplished exactly that. What
began with 13 students in their program and two horses, has now grown to more than 70 students and 12 horses, with 45 people currently on a waitlist.

What makes RAD so special is that it has become much more than just a riding center, but a place that has embraced the community – including many Scripps Ranch families – and it is where friendships and lifelong memories are being made. Along with the power of horses for healing, and a group of dedicated staff and volunteers, riders, regardless of their age and disability, are able to come together and grow within this program and learn everything there is to know about horses.

RAD focuses on individual training with lessons tailored to fit the needs of each rider. The horses are also handpicked for each student – specially trained and must pass a three month trial before being put into lessons.

RAD even has a show team for those interested in competing in local shows around the community. They not only give private lessons but group lessons as well, making this an activity for the whole family.

Madelyn Novak maneuvers her horse during a riding session. (courtesy of Ride Above Disability)

RAD is proving that there is a certain magic between the horses and riders, and that being around the horses comes with endless benefits. To express how the riders are developing in her program, Sarnataro shared some stories about a few of her local Scripps Ranch riders:

Eva Forgeron is 9 years old.

“She looks forward to her Thursday lessons with Camille, who she loves to do everything with. Not only has Eva made a new friend, but her mom, Emily, has also been able to connect with other parents at the center. The friendship has now extended outside the ranch with Eva inviting Camille to her birthday party,” Sarnataro said.

“Eva has become much more social, confident, brave and fearless. Her balance and coordination have also improved,” Sarnataro said.

Michael Dendel is 24 years old and has been riding with RAD since the beginning.

“He loves horses and he rides every Saturday, and looks forward to his lessons. He was a bit nervous in the beginning but now rides independently with one person assisting him,” Sarnataro said. “He loves when people watch and cheer him on. He’s now learning more than riding and is learning to take care of the horses and has really embraced the whole horsemanship aspect of therapeutic riding as well.” 

Seth and Madelyn Novak are siblings, ages 11 and 14.

“Seth started off mostly … with a leader at first working on more advanced riding skills, how to connect with his horse using his legs. He’s grown more confident within himself and is now able to do all the tasks that the instructor asks of him. He is now completely independent and likes to work with the horses on the ground as well, learning how to exercise, groom, lead and bathe the horses,“ Sarnataro said.

“Madilyn was a natural from the moment she started. She is a very quick learner and loves every horse she rides. She is very balanced and light in the saddle. She is working on control of her horse and using her natural aids to help guide,” Sarnataro said. “Madilyn recently was able to try cantering for the first time and she did amazing. Horseback riding has increased Madilyn’s confidence, riding skills and social skills as she gets to ride with peers her age.”

Anyone interested in the program is welcome to visit and take a tour. Learn more at radtrc.org.

Seth Novak atop his mount at Ride Above Disability Therapeutic Riding Center. (courtesy of Ride Above Disability)