Grant supports Southern Delaware Therapeutic Riding expansion

May 21, 2023

A new auxiliary barn, funded by a Delaware Community Foundation grant, will enable Southern Delaware Therapeutic Riding to create office space for its incoming executive director and instructors.

SDTR’s board wants to increase the footprint of the nonprofit’s farm south of Milton. The $10,000 DCF grant is helping SDTR build a new auxiliary barn so the organization can convert space in its main barn to use for new offices and additional storage.

SDTR is one of 22 organizations awarded $254,823 from the DCF’s Capital Grants program. The program assists with acquisition, final-stage design, construction, repair, renovation, rehabilitation or other capital improvements of facilities so nonprofits in all three counties can operate as efficiently and effectively as possible. Capital grants support projects that will have a lasting, positive impact on the population or community served by the grantee organization.

SDTR provides equine-assisted services for individuals who have physical and/or mental disabilities. Founded in 1988, SDTR moved from farm to farm in southern Delaware until it used a Longwood Foundation grant to purchase its current site in March 2015.

SDTR is working to assemble a structured leadership team, including hiring its first executive director. The organization plans to convert some of its main barn space into offices where the executive director and instructors will conduct their day-to-day work.

“We’ve done a lot of physical improvements to the facility since we purchased the farm to enhance the experience for our participants, and now we can enhance spaces for our instructors and volunteers,” said Scott Swingle, SDTR president. “We felt like the additional [office] space is needed for more meaningful work to happen.”

SDTR plans to move tools, cleaning supplies and the shavings used to line the horses’ stalls into the new auxiliary barn. This will open up space for the planned offices, and for storing riding equipment such as saddles and bridles.

A typical week for SDTR includes up to 60 participants ages 5 to 70-plus taking part in equine-assisted services. Individuals typically visit the farm for lessons twice a month. Also, two Delaware schools that serve children with special needs bring students to SDTR every week.

Equine-assisted services have many positive physical and mental outcomes, according to Kelly Boyer, SDTR program director.

“The horse's gait replicates the movement of a human walking. So, you're using similar muscles that humans use to walk when you're riding the horse,” Boyer said. “Riding the horse helps to physically increase muscle tone and strength. It also helps with balance, coordination and being able to use different limbs at different times.”

The positive mental outcomes of the lessons include learning how to form partnerships with the animals and the instructors. Participants practice their patience and communications skills to further enhance the partnerships and build their confidence, Boyer said.


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