My name is Deanne Joens Mundt and I am the director and instructor of the Jester Park Exceptional Rider program for Polk County Conservation. I develop, coordinate, and implement the therapeutic riding program for individuals of all ages with physical, behavioral, emotional, and social challenges. I also create equine related educational and recreational opportunities for other groups, such as Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, therapists, and case managers.
The Jester Park Exceptional Riders is a therapeutic horseback riding environment designed to provide individuals with various challenges an opportunity to experience therapy, education, sport and recreation using equine-assisted activities. My goal is to provide a positive experience that puts the individual first and enhances learning, growing, strengthening and fun.
There are many documented benefits of therapeutic horseback riding including improvement in strength, balance, coordination, muscle tone, postural and trunk control, and sensory processing. Interactions with horses can also teach patience, empathy, self-discipline, and responsibility.
There are many wonderful stories I could share about the joy and successes we see in the arena each week. Watching a young rider with cerebral palsy struggle to make his/her fingers work together to hold the brush to groom his/her horse can bring tears to my eyes when I see the focus and effort that "simple" task requires. Seeing the smile of pride on a rider's face when he/she is able to guide the horse with the reins brightens any day.
We also host the state Equestrian Special Olympics each September which is beyond description in the joy and happiness felt and seen on that day.
I enjoy meeting the riders, families, caregivers and volunteers and helping anyone feel better about themselves and the world around them through the use of the horse. The laughter and joy we experience together as we learn is priceless.
In a biographical paper written about one of our wheelchair bound riders, the author wrote the following regarding the how the rider feels when she rides: "A liberating wave of independence washes over her as she moves to the rhythm of her horse's cadence. Eyes bright, face flushed, she is having the time of her life. Free to move, free to think, free to be normal; she is finally free."