"I recently began volunteering with Opening Gaits, in roles outside and inside the arena. In doing so, I have met an amazing group of people who are dedicated and passionate in their love of horses and enabling riders to enjoy the freedom that is riding a horse.
It is a genuine and rewarding experience to see riders develop in strength, skill, and independence. To hear the confidence, joy, and laughter in their voices as they deliver verbal commands to the horse and interact with their leader, side walker and instructor/assistant. This truly is an inspiring program."
"I started volunteering at Opening Gaits in October of 2013 on Monday evenings. Since then, I look forward to a new work week because of volunteering! The staff is extremely welcoming and friendly to all the volunteers, and they make you feel at home. They do a great job introducing everyone and making sure that you all know each other and the program.
The most rewarding part of volunteering there is the looks on the clients (and their parents) faces when they are riding. You can tell it makes a true impact on their lives and they also, have come to love Mondays! Although I haven't been there long, I can see what a great program this is and hope to continue with it for many years."
"Our son Brody has been riding at Opening Gaits for 2 years now and I am so glad we found out about the therapeutic riding lessons there - It has been an amazing experience from day one.
Being a parent with a child with autism can sometimes make you apprehensive to sign your child up for extracurricular activities. I personally struggle with our son Brody with being excepted. I worry about him being disruptive and also because he is non-verbal and his receptive language is low, I worry he won't be able to participate at the correct level. At Opening Gaits they except everyone for who they are with open arms. Even the application process shows that they really want to get to know your child.
Riding for Brody helps in many different ways - Physically it helps his core strength and stability. Brody requires a lot of scenery input in order to regulate himself, being in the saddle and stirrups help with that. Brody likes tactile input. He loves hugging and petting his horse. Also, having to follow instructions and following routines in the class help with Brody's overall life skills.
The social aspect of Opening Gaits is huge for our whole family. Brody's riding session is something we do as a family so, my husband and I both go with Brody on Monday nights. It's nice for Brody to have friends and to be accepted by everyone. He gets so excited to go and he can hardly wait to put on his cowboy boots and head out the door.
It's also great for my husband and I. It's nice to network with other families. As a mom with a disabled child I find it hard to connect with adults who understand what you're going through. At Opening Gaits it's easy to make friends and get support from the volunteers and parents. I feel comfortable sharing our stories and love hearing about the other families. Through sharing I have found out about different strategies and other agencies in Calgary.
I'm very passionate about Opening Gaits because it offers so much for so many different kids and families. I know Opening Gaits will only grow in the future. We are so grateful to be a part of an amazing organization."
"As a volunbteer with Opening Gaits, I feel that I get far more than I give. One evening a week I escape routine and enter an arena filled with kind volunteers, positive instructors, grateful parents, and happy riders."
"Matthew has been counting down the days to his next ride. He told me last Saturday that he has never felt so happy. This is coming from a boy that does not show a lot of enthusiasm about most things. We are so grateful to be a part of your program!"
"Opening Gaits for me was the chance to get back in the saddle.
Arriving in Canada in 2012 was difficult, leaving family and friends in England broke my heart.
Here I was, in one of the harshest winters I had ever been in with no job, no friends, and no family.
I went on the trusty computer and read about Opening Gaits. The pictures were full of smiles and happiness and I knew this was a place to melt away my gloom.
So off I trotted from High River to join the group and to my delight, I was accepted and became happy again. I was around horses again (I grew up on my Dad's farm), sharing my time (busy again), and meeting wonderful people who were there just for the moment. Thanks Opening Gaits - you gave me a good start to Canada. Thanks for accepting me and sharing, you will always have a place in my heart."
"I first volunteered with Opening Gaits in September 2013. It was beautiful and warm on my first day, so we lead the riders out on a ‘trail ride’ into the fields behind the stables. This was my first experience with therapeutic riding and I was impressed by the strong connection formed between the riders, horses, and volunteers. There was a feeling of pure happiness and peace among the riders. That first experience is what kept me coming back because I could immediately see the positive impact that Opening Gaits had on the riders. It is a such a warm and welcoming community of dedicated families and friends, and I look forward to seeing their smiles every session.
Opening Gaits is a wonderful program that deserves more attention. The UFA's Rural From the Roots Up - Get 'n' Give Contest is exactly what we need to promote this excellent program that not only enriches our rural community but makes a significant impact in the lives of those most deserving. Opening Gaits deserves more awareness and support and winning this contest will help us achieve our goals."
"My daughter, Miranda, has been at Opening Gaits for 3-4 years. She was terrified to ride, but was fascinated watching other children ride. She spent six weeks observing, and then said, “My turn.” Since then she has been enjoying coming to ride every week. She has gained confidence, strength, and vocabulary. Her therapists have all noticed the improvements. Miranda eagerly waits for each lesson, and starts saying, “Walk on” and “whoa’ in anticipation for her lesson. She adores her instructors and asks for them all the time. The volunteers are also wonderful!
The riding program at Opening Gaits has been a very positive and beneficial program for Miranda. The relationships between the riders and horses are very valuable. I wish that everyone with special needs could have the opportunity to participate in this program.."