This spring, the YMCA Camp Carter Equestrian Center piloted a therapeutic and enrichment riding program for 4 and 5 year olds thanks to a $10,000 grant from the North Texas Community Foundation’s Anita Berry Martin Memorial Fund.
More than 60 students enrolled at YMCA schools such as the Ella McFadden Early Childhood Learning Center received eight, 1-hour sessions. The sessions included 30 minutes each of unmounted and riding activities. Attendees of the Pony Express program learned equine safety, relationships, parts of the horse, grooming, approaching a horse, mounting and dismounting, start and stop, and steering.
Pony Express offers numerous benefits for the pre-school students. As urban youth, it is often their first exposure to the grace, beauty and power of horse. Attendees build confidence by encountering a new and different environment. Learning they can get a 1,000 pound animal to follow basic directions such as providing a gentle squeeze of their legs or a kissing noise from their mouth gives the students a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
The experience gives a unique opportunity for adult and parent volunteers to interact with their children. Young participants gain an appreciation of the work involved in the care and grooming of large animals, and the program exposes parents to the fact that an equine program is located with the city limits of Fort Worth.
The Anita Berry Martin Memorial Fund was established at the North Texas Community Foundation in February of 2013. It awards grants to agencies in North Texas that provide outstanding services in land conservation, equestrian therapy, and the welfare and protection of horses.
“Our family experience at Camp Carter Pony Express was nothing short of amazing. We learn how to control a horse, how not to stand behind the horse and make sure the horse can see you at all times. My daughter (Marley) was so happy and excited to take the bus to Camp Carter and ride the horses, she would remind me every day for a week that she was going to ride a horse and she was going to wear her cowgirl boots. My whole family had an amazing time doing the Pony Express. We are looking forward to attending Camp Cater Pony Express soon.” – The Harrison Family