|Posted by Anne Siren on November 2, 2012 at 3:15 PM|
“Watching a child or person with limited mobility mount a horse and see that person’s muscles respond to the movement of the horse is an incredible experience for the child and for the volunteer,” says Ron Rentz, a side walker at Horses and the Handicapped, or H & H. “I’ve been doing this for eight years and it’s a gratifying experience for me,” he says, his eyes filling with tears. “You want to return because it’s like eating a great meal. It fulfills a need, makes me feel satisfied and wanting more.”
It was eight years ago, that Rentz decided he wanted to “give back”, and he began to investigate charities. He says, “Horses and the Handicapped fit my interests because of children and horses.” The owner of Excellence in the Water, Inc., a specialty pool contractor for remodeling, repairing and servicing pools and patios, stepped away from his work on a Tuesday afternoon, headed over to H & H to train and begin his volunteer activities. And that was the beginning of his love affair for this organization that has lasted for eight years.
“When I see a child in a full body cast have the cast removed and with assistance, be draped on a horse, flashing a smile like any other child without a problem, I’m so glad I do this. My class now includes a little girl and three boys, all of whom can almost ride alone. I help gather them, mount them and walk along side to assist if need appears.”
He continues, “ Many of our children are challenged both mentally and physically so learning and mastering basic instructions like using the reins to signal left, right, stop and go are huge accomplishments. The children are so proud of themselves when they can do this.”
The riders walk the horse, assisted by a horse handler in front and a side walker at the side to assist at once. Rentz has been with the same children for three to four years and shares the thrill of their progress and their happiness just to be on a horse and in a country setting.
“I’m so happy and relaxed when I leave H & H,” he says, “probably because the setting, the staff, the volunteers and even the horses seem to be happy to serve this population. The volunteers take a very easy training and safety course which qualifies them for specific jobs. In my case, to be a side walker which is exactly what I want to be.”
The students are all ages up to 70. A trained physical therapist works with older patients who are often stroke victims helping them use limbs that are not functioning as they should.
Rentz says, “Success must be measured by a different yardstick for each person. I’ve had children who are severely limited physically. They must be lifted on and held in place while muscles seldom exercised move with the horse for the first time.”
He adds, “I’ve seen highly agitated autistic children stop repetitive moves and calm down while riding. For them and their caregivers, riding provides much needed relief.”
Rentz is married to Marie and says, “I’m a dad on my second go-round, and I’m enjoying life with our eight and 13-year old children.”
Molly Murphy, outreach manager at H & H, praises Ron, saying “ He has the type of steadfast dedication that we can only hope to find in our volunteers. He’s made a wonderful difference is his students’ lives. We wish we had more like him.”
H & H has a small staff and a dedicated group of volunteers of all ages. Their common desire is to work with children and horses. H & H provides a great way for high school students to earn community service hours. Murphy hopes interested Pelican readers will come to the Horseshoe Hoedown, a fundraiser for this worthy charity that happens live, at guests’ tables.
What: Horseshoe Hoedown
Where: Horses and the Handicapped Vegso Family Arena; Tradewinds Park North in Coconut Creek
When: November 17 from 6 to 10 p.m.
Featuring: Meet the horses close up and feed them carrots while you and friends sip cocktails; Gourmet buffet dinner, catered by International Polo Club of Palm Beach; Andrew Morris country music band; Silent auction includes spectacular prizes including a week in a Tuscan Villa and an African Safari.
Tickets: $100. Call 954-974-2007