July 2018
Farm & Field

A Helping Hoof

 

MANE rider Huck giggles as his volunteers help urge his trusty steed Channing Tatum into a trot.

Montgomery Area Nontraditional Equestrians use horses to make lives better.

From the vantage point of a quiet "pasture-esque" two-lane road on the outskirts of Pike Road in Montgomery County, there lies what appears to be an unassuming horse farm. But, once you pass the outer gates and make the slow drive back to the main office and stables, you find a state-of-the-art, equine-assisted therapeutic riding facility. This magical place is the Montgomery Area Nontraditional Equestrians, or MANE for short, where horses change lives.

MANE is a nonprofit organization formed in 1994 that provides safe and effective therapeutic-horseback-riding experiences for the Montgomery tri-county-area children and adults who have emotional, physical, cognitive and developmental disabilities. MANE’s equine-assisted activities provide the opportunities to improve motor function, flexibility, balance and core strength. Cognitive skills such as verbalization, following directions, sequencing and judgment are also enhanced through riding. Riders’ confidence, self-esteem and independence naturally improve as well. And, on top of all these benefits, the certified instructors and volunteers make sure each rider has FUN.

MANE rider Savannah confidently steers Spirit around during a lesson.

 

MANE lies on a 44-acre site and includes a modest, but well-designed, 15-stall barn and office building, with a comfortable waiting/viewing room overlooking a covered riding ring. The riding facilities include a 3-acre, advanced-sensory-integration trail, two covered and two outdoor riding rings, and mounting blocks to accommodate riders requiring a lift.

In addition to its therapeutic riding services, MANE offers youth riding lessons through local schools and summer camps that give kids, who wouldn’t normally have the chance, the opportunity to interact with horses, learn new skills and gain understanding about special needs.

While there are fees involved with all of the services provided by MANE, no rider is ever turned down due to financial difficulties. There are scholarships available for riders to defer some or all of the costs.

As you can probably imagine, MANE has many horses to feed and care for, a facility to maintain and life-changing lessons to teach. Even with fees and scholarship grants, MANE must look to the community for support. MANE relies on volunteers and donors to be able to provide its unique (in the area) and extremely beneficial services to so many.

 

Fun is infectious at MANE for students and volunteers.

Would you like to be a part of the magic? MANE needs volunteers for the fall session. It’s not necessary to have prior experience with horses, but that certainly helps! The only requirement is that you not be afraid of them. MANE volunteers are trained on-site and perform tasks such as leading horses during lessons, walking beside students during lessons, grooming and caring for the horses, helping with fundraisers or helping with a host of behind-the-scenes administrative tasks. MANE is always looking for dedicated and dependable volunteers who can devote any amount of time, from an hour a week to several hours a day.

If you live in the Montgomery tri-county area and have time and talents to donate, please consider becoming a MANE volunteer. Visit www.maneweb.org to learn more about MANE and to download the necessary volunteer forms. Training and orientation for new volunteers are conducted once a month. Contact them at 334-213-0909 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to obtain more information.

If you don’t live in the Montgomery area or your schedule doesn’t allow time to volunteer, you can still help this very worthy organization through donations directly through www.maneweb.org via credit or debit card.

Also, if you are a horse owner and have equine equipment to donate (hoof picks, brushes, halters, leads, children’s riding boots, etc.), contact MANE at 334-213-0909 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to find out how you can help.

 

Jackie Nix is a freelance writer from Prattville and Susie Wilson is one of MANE’s directors.