With a little over a week remaining in the 2012-2013 school year, Wednesday was a day for “horsing around” for Greensburg Junior High School (GJHS) students participating in the school’s “Unbridled Potential” program at Triple R Equine Rescue.
Program Coordinator Heather Sanders told the Daily News Unbridled Potential was started three years ago and aims to help “at-risk” students, grades six through eight.
“By at-risk,” she explained, “we’re talking about kids who might be struggling with grades or with turning in assignments on time. These kids might also be struggling socially or behaviorally.”
The GJHS special education teacher added that, in creating the program, she and other program organizers were simply trying to find and think of “different ways to motivate kids.”
Sanders herself owns two rescued horses at her home and is friends with Debbie Richards, owner of Triple R.
“We started accepting rescued horses in earnest in 2008,” Richards said. “We’d been rescuing horses before that, but at nothing like our current numbers.”
Once Triple R started taking animals, in fact, the stable grew quickly in size.
“It got to a point,” Richards said, “that we had all these horses, and we realized we didn’t really have anything for them to do.”
Added Sanders, “She [Richards] had horses that needed a job, and we had kids who need motivation. It was a perfect match.”
Sanders applied for and received a grant for the program and it was off and “trotting” in 2011.
“We purchased curriculum books from Strides to Success in Indianapolis,” Sanders said. “Those have been immensely helpful in developing the program to teach cooperation, leadership, responsibility, teamwork and patience.”
Added Decatur County Director of Tourism Melanie Maxwell, who was on hand for Wednesday’s final Unbridled sessions of the year, “It’s amazing, the effect these horses have on the kids. You can see it.”
Through the program, Sanders explained, kids learn to care for and work around horses, including brushing, picking out hooves and saddling.
“They get time every other week (boys go one week and girls the next throughout the year),” she said, “based on a set of goals they create at the beginning of the school year. As long as they work towards those goals and we see improvements, they get to come. We do all we can to help them so they don’t miss any time. Time with the horses becomes a really big deal for these kids.”
Sanders expanded the program in the fall, allowing the kids to volunteer to work with the horses at Triple R one time each week after school until about 5 p.m.
“We arrange all that with the bus driver,” she said. “They’ll be able to volunteer this summer too.”
With Wednesday marking the final day for the program of the year, the boys and girls worked with the horses on the same day, boys in the morning and girls in the afternoon.
Sanders handed out certificates of completion, too. Those certificates provide a sense of accomplishment, another aspect that can provide a big boost for at-risk students.
Eighth grader Jewel Clark, who finally conquered her fear Wednesday by mounting and (briefly) riding one of the animals Wednesday, perhaps summed up the program’s utility best, saying “I’ve learned to be more confident. And I’ve learned that I was capable of doing more than I thought I could.”
For more photos from the final day of Unbridled Potential, 2012-2013, visit greensburgdailynews.smugmug.com.
Contact: Rob Cox 812-663-3111 x7011