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Towne Salute: Sandy King of Talbot Special Riders

Feb 01, 2018 03:56PM ● By Lauren VanSickle

Photo by Greg Sharp

By Cate Reynolds

Sandy King has always been passionate about two things: helping people and riding horses. When she and her late husband moved to Easton in the early 1980s, King was given the opportunity to combine her two passions and make a difference in the community.

In 1981, King and Kathy Stoddard co-founded Talbot Special Riders (TSR), a nonprofit therapeutic horseback riding program for individuals struggling with emotional, mental, and physical challenges.  

“I got a call from a friend who said ‘we need horse people,’” King recalls. 

When Stoddard had to leave the facility in 1981, King became the full-time director of TSR and has been there ever since, helping the program grow immensely since its humble beginnings 36 years ago.

“This past year we made a huge leap of faith and got into our own headquarters,” King says. “We had been on another farm using their horses, which was wonderful, but we needed to expand.” 

This past summer, Timber Grove Farm in Preston, Maryland became the new home of TSR. The farm is owned and operated by Kim Hopkins, a longtime TSR instructor, and now, the executive director of the program. 

“She [Hopkins] just jumped in with all feet and she’s fantastic,” King explains. “The volunteers love her, the kids love her, and it’s just a wonderful situation.”

Aside from Hopkins, the organization is run entirely by volunteers, including both occupational and physical therapists. The remarkable thing, King notes, is that up until a few years ago TSR did not have one volunteer who had a special needs child. 

With a new home and the help of the volunteers, TSR was able to expand their programs tremendously. Previously, the program only ran two days a week, but the new facility has allowed TSR to operate and offer programs seven days a week. The move has also allowed the organization to broaden the people they serve.

“We started out working just with special needs children,” King says. “Now we are going into [working with] children suffering from trauma, drugs, sexual abuse, and human trafficking. They all need therapy and the horse is the best, best, therapy.” 

In addition to therapeutic riding, TSR also offers hippotherapy, a treatment done by an occupational or physical therapist in which the horse is used as a tool to help improve balance, coordination, muscle strengthening, and motor processing.

“When we walk, we lift our front leg and step,” King explains. “A horse’s motion is the same. If a child has a limp, this is the only time their body gets in the proper juxtaposition.”

According to King, hippotherapy can help strengthen muscles in the rider’s body associated with speech. Several children who were told they would never speak have spoken their very first words while riding.
 
“One little boy’s first word was happy,” King recalls. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”

TSR allows individuals to work through their frustrations in a loving atmosphere. The skills the children learn while riding help them become successful in everyday life. According to King, making a difference in these children’s lives is why she loves what she does.

“When you see people who couldn’t walk, and now all of a sudden, they can walk,” King says. “What more can you ask for?”

Though the impact King has on these children is great, she believes that the impact they have on her is much greater. According to King, TSR has given her life meaning. 

“It’s a wonderful thing to see that you can make a difference in a child’s life,” King explains. “It’s been a lifetime experience that has definitely made my life much richer and much better.”

For more information on Talbot Special Riders visit Talbotspecialriders.org. 

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