Have you heard of this unique place we have in our valley?
Alatheia is a center that offers therapeutic horse riding. It is a member of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International and The Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry. The goals are geared towards independence in life skills. It is a non-profit center and with support from the community, it allows for facility enhancements, equine care and reduced cost lessons to their participants, which include children and adults.
The benefits of therapeutic activities for the participants include physical, emotional and mental help. Lessons are given all week long.
Alatheia feature Norwegian Fjord horses only.They are known for their calm and easy going nature. The team of horses include Frid, Blakken, Sindre, Nils and Marta.
Alatheia wouldn’t be possible without its creators Glenn and Nancy Grette who started the center in 2011. The center started with 12 riders and to this day, they have 50 riders weekly. The team consists of two instructors, a lesson assistant and volunteers. Currently, the center has about 40 volunteers. One of them includes my daughter, Soli Brinkman. Soli is almost 15 years old. To be a volunteer, you must be 14 years old.
Soli has always loved horses and has been taking riding lessons with Starla at Stardust Ranch in Rock Island for the past couple of years. Prior to that, she began private lessons at age 10 with her wonderful Aunt, Cyd.
Soli’s passion for horses brought her to Alatheia. She couldn’t wait until she turned 14 to be a volunteer. She understood that she wouldn’t be riding on the horses, but just to be around them, was good enough. For anyone of age who wants to volunteer at Alatheia, there is a process. You apply and then get trained at the facility. Soli went through the process and volunteered all summer. Here is what she had to say about the experience:
“Alatheia is not all that I expected. It’s even more! It’s one thing to read about horses and people helping people with disabilities, but it’s completely different to see and experience it for yourself. I remember my first day at Alatheia. I was kinda lost and didn’t know anyone. I knew in my heart the magic that these horses can do for people, but I would never expect to experience it on the first day.
There was one child who was pretty young and I didn’t know what specific disability he had but he ‘parroted’ you, or in other words, he repeated everything you said, word for word. He also didn’t like to stretch that much which is one of the things we were working on. At the beginning he could barely lift his arms, but by the end, he could stretch them full length in all directions! That may not seem like that big of an accomplishment for you or me, but if you put yourself in his shoes, it’s a really big deal! I’m usually a lead walker at Alatheia, which means that my main focus is on the horse and making sure it doesn’t spook or put the rider in danger at all. The horses are amazing there and so friendly, the easiest horses you could fall in love with. The changes that I’ve seen throughout the summer are truly unforgettable. From a 2-year-old to an 80-year-old, I’ve seen it all. Everyone at Alatheia is like one big family. We always greet each other like we’ve known each other all our lives.”
I am very proud of Soli. She realizes that it’s not about her needs or passion for horses, but about others and giving back to our community. Soli will continue to volunteer as her schedule allows while in school. She is committed for the summers.
How can you help? Spread the word, volunteer, become a member or by attending their annual events. And be sure to check out the website for more information.
Alatheia Riding Center is located at 2170 Sleepy Hollow Heights, and volunteer inquiries can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Top photo: Soli Brinkman,14, leading the horse with Karin Lenard, 14, daughter of Desiree Miller Schmidt, on horse while training at Alatheia’s indoor arena to become volunteers. Second picture: Soli greeting Blakken.)