STARS help others learn to ride horses

Virginia Berg

Virginia Berg

For the past 13 summers, a group of very special people has gathered at the Circle H Ranch to provide a therapeutic horsemanship program to people with developmental disabilities in Brookings and the surrounding area.

STARS, an acronym for Special Training And Riding Skills, aims to teach basic horsemanship skills to its riders while also providing them with physical benefits. The primary objective for the riders, though, is simply to have fun.

“Most of our riders are here for the fun of it,” said Larry Thomas, one of the program’s founders and current STARS president. “There is a therapeutic benefit to anyone who rides a horse, and our riders are no different in that respect.”

Improved range of motion, flexibility and muscle strength are all physical benefits from horse riding. “The motions of the horse mimic the human body’s,” Thomas said. “For some riders, this is as close as they can get to the feeling of walking.”

To qualify for the STARS program, potential riders must have a developmental disability and must have the consent of their guardians and doctors. Last year the program had 46 riders and nearly 60 volunteers.

“It takes three volunteers for every rider,” Thomas said. “We have one person who leads the horse and another two people, one to walk along each side of the horse.”

STARS is currently looking for volunteers for the fast approaching summer sessions. STARS meets for two sessions every Tuesday and Thursday night from June 19 to August 31, but does not meet the week of July Fourth. They usually have around five rides every session and will meet at Dick Halstead’s Circle H Ranch located between Brookings and Volga. To volunteer with STARS, stop by Advance and pick up an application or call 692-7852 to have one mailed to you.