U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan is seeking funding for the arena.
By MONICA BOND
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- The Camelot Center Therapeutic Riding Program plans to build a permanent home for its horses on 74 donated acres in Southington Township.
The new barn will have 12 stalls, heating, an indoor arena, an observation room so parents can watch the lessons, and classrooms. The arena will have recycled tire footing, which will cut down on dust. The parking lot will be paved so it is easily accessible for wheel chairs. There will be riding trails across the property.
Camelot is a nonprofit riding center geared toward people with physical, developmental, emotional, or mental disabilities; the center also serves able-bodied riders. It is a premier accredited center of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association of Denver.
The new barn will be the first facility Camelot has owned since it was founded in 1994 by Tony and Karen Rathburn of Niles, whose son Anthony has cerebral palsy.
Camelot has leased five different places in their 11 years, most recently in Southington. Riding lessons have stopped until Camelot has its own facility because of insurance purposes. Mary Ann Menten, Camelot board president, said Camelot has been given 74 acres in Southington to build its facility.
"We're glad they're staying in the township," said Southington Township Trustee Dan Tietz.
The man who donated the land, who wishes to remain anonymous, said Camelot is a good program and he thinks the land will work well for them.
Efforts have begun to raise the $225,000 necessary to build the barn and arena. Menten said they have received help from the DeBartolo and Cafaro families, among others, and the excavation and plumbing work has been donated.
"All these people are stepping up who believe in what we're doing and want us to have our own home," she said.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-17th, joined Camelot's volunteer board of directors this week, and said he is committed to helping the program.
"I think we need to find new ways to help these kids because sometimes traditional therapies don't reach the emotional and mental help they need," he said.
Menten said Ryan has included $100,000 in funding for the arena in a bill that will be voted on this fall in Congress. Ryan said that money may be hard to get this year because of budget cuts, but said "we'll try again next year if we don't get it."
Menten said therapeutic riding provides therapy to kids who are often bored and frustrated with intense clinical therapy. The horse's body heat promotes relaxation and lengthening of muscles, and encourages core muscle use. She said therapeutic riding changes a child's world.
"You take a child who's been in a wheel chair their entire life looking up. You put them on a horse and all of a sudden they're looking down," she said.
Mental and physical
Board Treasurer Susan Nadenichek said the mental help riding gives to all children is just as important as the physical help.
"There are so many things they can't do; to be successful at something is such a big triumph," she said.
One of Camelot's horses, a pretty bay named Kimber, grazed on the grass and clover behind the Trumbull Metropolitan Housing Authority.
Kimber is a registered appaloosa but lacks the spots typical of her breed, said Debbie Meeker, Camelot's program director and lead instructor.
"She is great for quadriplegics and paraplegics, those who need a little more hands-on help," she said.
All Camelot's horses are carefully trained for the program. The two riding instructors are certified with North American Riding for the Handicapped Association.
Costs for lessons are $20 for the disabled and $25 for the able-bodied.