Message from the President
Bit by Bit – Making a Difference in Riders’ Lives
The Bit by Bit Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program at Rogers State University has been performing miracles for more than a decade now.
Through equine therapy, the program changes the lives of people of all ages who may have cognitive, developmental, behavioral or physical disabilities.
Here’s how it works: since the horse’s gait closely represents the three-dimensional movement of a human’s walk, it has tremendous benefits for individuals who are not ambulatory.
Through the help of certified instructors and volunteers, riders develop strength, balance, coordination, sequencing, verbalization and cause-and-effect skills.
This program is a wonderful resource for our community and all of northeast Oklahoma. RSU receives no revenue from the program and offers the program solely as a community service. The program serves approximately 90 students each year.
The program is operated with the financial support and volunteer hours of many organizations and individuals. Thanks to university and private contributions, the program is able to reach out to many more students than would be served otherwise. Private contributions help in hiring full-time staff members, paying stipends to instructors, making facility improvements, and funding operational expenses.
The documented benefits of therapeutic horseback riding are great. Many riders improve their speech, movement, balance, and strength, as well as their emotional health and motivation.
Riders benefit from the emotional bond of handling the horse, performing tasks of responsible care-giving as well as the accomplishment of horsemanship skills, that carry over to the home, family relationships, self-esteem and school activities. The benefits seem limitless.
The results of this unique therapy are equally as incredible. There is nothing like hearing a child speak for the first time, or learning that one of the students was able to crawl seven steps after a session at Bit by Bit, as parents, instructors and volunteers will attest.
The horses at Bit by Bit are unique in their ability to handle students who have mental and physical challenges. At times, students can be vocal and disruptive which requires a horse with a special disposition to tolerate the distraction. Typically horses with these characteristics are older animals. Because the horses at Bit by Bit are older, they require regular health maintenance to ensure they will be able to serve the students. All of the program’s horses are trained and maintained by instructors certified by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association.
The program employs three full-time people, including Director, Instructor, Equine Coordinator, and one part-time Program Assistant. Both full-time and part-time instructors must be certified by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of the program. Each year, approximately 75 volunteers generously donate their time to the program. All volunteers, both new and returning, must participate in training sessions. The training is offered for people 15 years and older. There is no fee for the training if the participant plans to volunteer for Bit by Bit. There are many ways in which a person can assist the program through volunteering and prior experience with horses is not necessary.
Bit by Bit continues to receive accolades from parents, educators, and therapists who are involved with the program.