Sponsored by Riverwood Therapeutic Riding Center, written by Bree Hendrick

When you first make your way down the winding gravel drive located just outside Winston-Salem’s city limits in Tobaccoville, the farm may look similar to many others you have seen before.  Gently rolling hills fenced off for the horses, a few sheds here and there.  As you drive a little closer to the beautiful brick building situated in the middle of the property, you begin to wonder what Riverwood is all about…that’s not just ANY barn.  Built with the hard work and sweat of an entire community through grants and donations, Riverwood Therapeutic Riding Center is a 53-acre farm full of hope and happiness – a place where individuals with special needs come to heal, prosper, and realize that their abilities far outweigh their disabilities.

Riverwood Therapeutic Riding Center first opened in 1995; it was the dream and vision of Susan Hubbard, a RN who recognized the need for alternative therapies and non-traditional forms of communication and connectivity for those with special needs.  She combined this with her lifelong passion for horses and Riverwood was born.

IMG_0521Through the years, Riverwood has become a vital part of this community, primarily serving five counties (Forsyth, Davie, Stokes, Surry, and Yadkin) with some families driving from as far as Virginia.  In 2006, Riverwood became the only Premier Accredited Therapeutic Riding Center through the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association in this immediate area.  Riverwood Therapeutic Riding Center’s mission is to use equine assisted activities for the purpose of contributing positively to the cognitive, physical, emotional and social well-being of individuals with special needs.  Through the use of specially trained equines, nationally certified therapeutic riding instructors, a physical therapist and a psychiatrist, we provide group and individual physical therapy, hippotherapy (equine therapy with the use of a physical therapist to accomplish specific therapy goals), and psychotherapy sessions for children and adults with special needs, including (but not limited to) Down syndrome, autism, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and other emotional disorders, developmental or cognitive delays.  Over 800 individuals have benefitted from therapeutic horseback riding at Riverwood, and we continuously serve between 90 – 120 students per week, including our partnership with the Center’s for Exceptional Children.

Research has shown the effectiveness of equine-related therapies – equine movement almost precisely matches the movement of the human gait, so for those individuals with physical disabilities who may be wheelchair bound, or unable to use certain limbs or muscle groups, equine therapy is the only opportunity they receive to so closely mimic natural movement and allow them an opportunity to move freely without the use of mechanical or adaptive equipment.  The emotional connection that many students dealing with autism or other cognitive or behavioral disabilities make with the horses serves as a unique tool to break down barriers and encourage social interaction.  We have, in fact, witnessed students speak their very first words on horseback.  Major milestones are evident frequently at Riverwood, but the daily smiles (and sometimes tears of joy) are just as thrilling and just as heartwarming.

Gone_Riding_052Riverwood invites you to come join the family and help make our community a better place.  We consistently need over 100 volunteers per week to run a successful program, and we are growing!  Riverwood is a wonderful family place to volunteer your time.  No prior horse experience is necessary – just a desire to learn and to help others.  We generally ask that volunteers be at least 14 years of age, but some exceptions are made based on experience and parental guidance.  We hold orientations for new volunteers, and there are frequently service projects for groups and organizations.  To watch our volunteers in action, click here and play the video link to the right.

Riverwood is also holding summer riding lessons for everyone, both those with and without special needs from age 3 ½ to adults.  If you are a seasoned rider or simply want a fun activity for you or family this summer, consider joining our summer program!  Learn the basics of horsemanship and exercise in a fun outdoor environment, or expand your knowledge with our Equine Specialist, Laura Pallavicini.  Enroll your child for a truly special experience with horses – this is a wonderful introduction to the world of horseback riding for young children.  It is a 7-week session from June 20th – August 5th.  Please contact us for details on reserving your spot(s) today – we fill up quickly!

We always welcome visitors to the farm, so please contact us for a tour.  To contact Riverwood for more information, volunteer opportunities, or ways you can donate to help support the program:
6825 Rolling View Drive, Tobaccoville, NC  27050

For more information on therapeutic riding: