By Karen Grindler
Karen Grindler founded Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center in 1988, and has devoted her life to providing equestrian therapy to the people of Mid-Missouri ever since. Karen, a Mizzou graduate, and her husband John, a retired Journalism professor, reside at Cedar Creek where they spend their days fixing fences, feeding and caring for 17 equestrian therapy horses, mowing pastures in addition to managing the day to day operations of the Cedar Creek program. They couldn’t do it without the tremendous support of community volunteers who serve as leaders and side-walkers and the financial support of so many generous organizations and individuals.
I am a talker, not a writer, so if you ever need a feel-good speaker, I’m your gal! I can tell true stories that will make a room full of people cry tears of joy. I am however, going to attempt to share one of MANY Veteran stories of success from Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center, in writing.
We’re in our 33rd year of operation at Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center and each year we do hundreds of rides, with hundreds of riders; and there are so many great things that happen here because of the horse/rider relationship. Three years ago we had a Veteran, a woman in her 60’s come to Cedar Creek to work on her strength and balance. She had PTSD along with some debilitating effects from chemical exposure. When “Kathy” began she came to the Center walking with a cane and she was only able travel at walk on the horse as that movement alone was difficult and hard on her body. She began all her lessons at the walk and had the assistance of a side-walker on each side to hold onto her. She was frightened of falling and did not trust her own reaction time. Our second week of riding we hit the trails and Kathy was challenged by the up and down of hills; yet she was trusting of her Volunteer Side-walkers and she seemed super excited to be getting the opportunity to trek through the woods once again, as she had been staying clear of wooded trails due to the potentially hazardous uneven ground. By week three Kathy was starting to gain balance and strength and she was now able to walk up to the arena WITHOUT the use of her cane. Kathy was now comfortable on the trail and beginning to trust her body again! As we finished the eight week session Kathy was able to move at a trot atop the horse and was confident to ride without side-walkers.
Here is the ending to this story…
The last week of lessons on the way up to the arena, Kathy was getting out of her car and stopped me to share a personal story. She said that every summer since she was married, she and her husband would take Sunday rides in the country on his motorcycle. After her balance started getting worse she stopped riding with him because she was afraid she would fall. She missed these rides so much. She said after trotting on Ghazi, she was beginning to feel like her balance was coming back, she was feeling stronger and more confident. So recently when her husband was getting ready for a Sunday drive in the country, she asked if he still had her backseat. He said yes. “Put it on,” she said, “I am going with you.”
Kathy said they rode on the bike together for 3 hours and it felt so good to wrap her arms around her husband again. Cruising throughout the countryside, together. After the story, we hugged and as I started to walk away, I stopped and asked, “How long had it been since you rode together Kathy?”
She answered, “13 years…”
I was so choked up at that moment.
Our horse and volunteer side-walkers gave this woman back a ride in the country with her man, after 13 years!!! That’s the sort of thing that happens out here at Cedar Creek on a weekly basis.
I will leave you with a letter I received from another Veteran participant. (All of our Veterans attend free of charge with scholarships from VU, btw)
I can not begin to express my gratitude for your kindness, love and acceptance to me and my fellow vets. Your staff follows your actions well. I love you all.
Thank you for helping me forget my problems when I come to this relaxing sanctuary and magical place.
You are one of God’s angels and all your staff. They say there are Angels amongst us with clothes on.
I hope I can stay in touch after my 8-week session, maybe I can Volunteer.
If I had a lot of money, I would donate to Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center. I will pray this beautiful sanctuary will continue to grow and reach more people now and in the future.
God Bless You All!
Thank you to Veterans United for providing the Veterans of our community this amazing opportunity. As you can read, you are making a huge difference in the lives of others. We couldn’t do this therapy without your help.