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Nibley woman helps disabled kids learn horsemanship with ‘Giddy-Up Go’

October 10th, 2009 Posted in Arts and Life

By Benjamin Wood

NIBLEY – For 12 years Amy Platt and her volunteers at Giddy-Up Go have been helping children with disabilities. The non-profit program runs during the summer months at Platt’s property and once a week children from all over the valley come to ride horses and learn about animals.

Sharlee Bates’ 10-year-old son Emmett is one of Platt’s students. He participated for the first time in the summer of 2008 and Bates says that they plan on taking part again next summer.

“Horses are his favorite thing now because of [the program], he can’t get enough,” Bates said.

For Bates, Giddy-Up Go is a way to meet other parents and it allows Emmett to socialize with children outside of school.
“For my son it’s just such a good opportunity to get out and do something he wouldn’t normally be able to do,” Bates said. “It’s an awesome program and I know it helps a lot of kids.”

The program runs for 6 weeks, Platt said, and holds between 20 and 25 students in two separate weekly sessions. Each class is one hour, with half the time devoted to riding and the other half spent in a classroom setting. Children in the program learn about animal care and riding basics, and at the end of the summer have the opportunity to
present a miniature horse in a show held at the Cache County Fairgrounds.

Platt said that the horseback riding is a form of therapy. The motion of the horse resembles human movement and riding exercises the muscles used in walking for the children. Their backs, legs, and balance are strengthened in a way that would otherwise be difficult.

Platt said that the program utilizes some 40 volunteers. Each rider has two “side-walkers” who are responsible for the safety of the child, and a “horse handler” who is in charge of the animal. Some children will also be paired with a “back-rider” who sits on the horse behind the child.

“They have a lot of volunteers out there,” Bates said.

Platt said that the volunteers go through a lot of training, most of which live in the nearby neighborhood or are members of the local 4-H club. “They get tired because we’re using them constantly,” Platt said.

Recently, Giddy-Up Go has seen a couple of setbacks. An unusually wet spring and the departure of Platt’s parents on an LDS mission compounded to cancel this summer’s program, although Giddy-Up Go should be up and running this May. Platt’s father, Boyd Schiess, has also been attempting to obtain an open space easement for the property, an issue that in September culminated in a public hearing in which community members appeared in droves to voice their support for Schiess. A proposed road on the master plan dissected the Schiess property, where Giddy-Up Go is housed, and after
hours of public discussion was lifted from the plan in a 3-2 vote of the council.

Platt said that their family didn’t qualify for an easement this year, quite likely due to the time that passed resolving the road issue, but the family has been told that they are on “the top of the list for next year.” Should the property receive the easement, the
estate would receive funds for improvement, which would in turn be reflected in Giddy-Up Go.

The program began, Platt said, after a family member was involved in a skiing accident, eventually being diagnosed as quadriplegic. From that tragedy, Platt said the family became more aware of people who suffer from disabilities.

“It opened up a whole new world of people we can help,” Platt said.

Looking forward, Platt said that she hopes to one day have an indoor arena to allow riding year-round. She also hopes to be able to accommodate more students. “I would like to be able to serve more,” Platt said.

Funding is always an issue, but Platt said they occasionally sponsor fundraisers like hay-rides and receive help from members of the community. “We’re all for supporting them,” Bates said.

The program serves mostly elementary and middle-school aged children, but is open to all ages. Students have come from as far as Ogden to participate, Platt said. Each child receives a pair of cowboy boots for their participation, donated to the program in large part by Deseret Industries and families in the area.

The program is completely volunteer, but upkeep and feeding costs require a $45 fee for the six-week program. Platt said that a Web site is in the works but for now, interested families should contact Platt either by phone or via e-mail at giddyupgo@yahoo.com.

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