Back in the Saddle 

Helen Woodward Animal Center’s (HWAC) therapeutic riding program recently received a special visit from 97-year-old Helen Downey. Four generations of family and friends gathered in the center’s riding arena to watch Helen check her number one item off of her bucket list – to ride a horse again. Helen grew up in L.A. County and rode horses avidly as a child. Throughout her adult life she rode horses casually, though never with regularity. Her interest in riding a horse again was reignited with a dream. “A few weeks back I had a dream about a horse. I was standing next to it and I knew I was going to ride it. When I woke up, I felt happy and I talked to my friends about it,” shared Helen. The dream prompted a bucket list discussion. “Riding a horse topped mine,” explained Helen. A friend of Helen’s suggested HWAC’s therapeutic riding program, so Helen’s granddaughter made the phone call.

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“Many seniors would be intimidated by riding a horse,” stated riding instructor Gretchen Davis. “It’s quite an athletic feat which is part of the reason it is such good exercise and physical therapy for our clients. But our program works with all sorts of physical needs and being elderly certainly wasn’t the most challenging we’ve seen, particularly when you have the type of spirit that Helen has.” The staff selected Noodles, a 25-year-old Thoroughbred, for Helen’s ride. Although one of the oldest horses at the facility, Noodles is one of the most vibrant with a genuine attentiveness to his riders, and when Noodles and Helen met an instant friendship was formed. To learn more about HWAC’s therapeutic riding program visit www.animalcenter.org.