Dueker Ranch Therapeutic Riding Center officially welcomed their new therapy horse this week, a Clydesdale colt named Hamish.
Staff and volunteers gave Hamish a belated birthday party Tuesday, complete with a birthday hat, cupcakes and song. Hamish seemed to enjoy all the attention.
Born on Valentine’s Day, Hamish is the latest addition to the stable of therapeutic horses that now includes two Clydesdales, two Belgians, four Haflingers and three miniatures.
Hamish was bred in Quebec, Canada, and arrived at the ranch in Star Valley a few weeks ago. Owners Dennis and Kathy Dueker said they were looking for a horse with a calm temperament.
“We are very pleased with him,” said Dennis. “He’s very calm, social — he loves people. We use him as a horse to introduce people to horses because of his sweet nature. He builds confidence in individuals.”
Hamish, a yearling, stands 15.1 hands high. Clydesdales, a breed of draft horse, can grow to 18 hands tall at the withers, and can weigh between 1,600 and 2,400 pounds.
“One of the beauties of draft horses is they have an instinct that they want to work and they want to help,” said Dennis. “If you can get them as a yearling and raise them right it’s a total trust relationship. We break them out very slowly. We’re not there to break their spirit, we’re there to build their trust.”
Dueker Ranch, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and an Arizona-qualified dollar-for-dollar tax credit charity, offers therapeutic riding to promote physical, occupational, and emotional growth.
“What’s special about us is we have that kind of place where people can come and feel safe with us,” said Dennis. “We are very quiet and calm which is also a part of working with horses. The kids are very comfortable with our horses and volunteers and their self-confidence goes through the roof. We are always positive.”
Dueker works with children and adults with the following diagnoses: ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, Down’s syndrome, learning disabilities, emotional/behavioral issues, spinal cord and brain injuries, stroke victims, cerebral palsy, Sensory integration disorder and developmental delay, multiple scleroses, PTSD, visual impairment and muscular dystrophy.
The only diagnoses they are not able to accommodate are grand mal seizures or people who exhibit at-risk behaviors.
Hippotherapy (the use of horseback riding as a therapeutic or rehabilitative treatment) includes benefits such as:
▪ Increased strength, flexibility and respiration
▪ Improved balance and coordination
▪ Improved coping and social skills (reduced stress and hyperactivity)
▪ Increased quality and quantity of communication
▪ Improved self confidence
The ranch welcomes children, youth and adults and there is no charge for their programs.
“We don’t judge anybody,” said Dueker. “It doesn’t matter their race, color, creed — we help everybody.”
To date, their youngest rider is a 4-year-old girl with autism and their oldest, an 86-year-old man with Alzheimer’s.
Volunteers make the success of Dueker Ranch possible, the couple says. The ranch currently has 30 volunteers.
“We welcome everyone who is interested,” said Dueker, “If the person has health issues we find a way for them to participate. One volunteer couldn’t walk any more so he would sit on a chair close to the arena and count how many times the riders stood up in their stirrups during a two-point exercise (helps improve balance). They called him grandpa.”
Volunteer opportunities include side walker/coach; horse leader; barn hand; facility maintenance; grooming and tacking; administrative; website maintenance and social media; PR, marketing and fundraising.
Dueker Ranch is holding a volunteer orientation from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., Saturday, March 23 at 214 N. Cornerstone Way in Star Valley. Call 928-978-7039 for more information.
Visit their website for more information about the ranch and programs they offer.