NewsVoice for Veterans


Maryland Therapeutic Riding offers free therapy rides to veterans

Maryland Therapeutic Riding.png
Posted at 5:00 AM, May 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-03 08:09:10-04

CROWNSVILLE, Md. — Its a sunny, crisp spring morning at the farm of Maryland Therapeutic Riding (MTR). As horses graze contently in the fields, there is work being done inside the barn.

Kirby Bowling, an Air Force veteran, is riding on Carter, one of the largest horses at MTR.

"He has a turbo mode and its all you can do just to hold on and enjoy the ride," Bowling said.

Bowling has been riding at MTR for the last two and a half to three years. His lessons are paid for by a scholarship through the farm's Equine Services for Heroes program. Its one of many programs offered by MTR.

"MTR’s mission is to improve the quality of children, adults, active military and veterans through the healing power of horses," said Kelly Rodgers, the executive director of MTR.

That healing power may not seem so obvious to those watching on the outside of the ring but Rodgers says it is quite palpable between the rider and the horse.

"[Horses] are very intuitive. They will often mirror the humans that they’re working with or being around. For the humans, there’s nothing like connecting with a 1,200 pound animal."

Those connections turn into transformations of mind, body and spirit. Watching Bowling glide around the ring on Carter, it's hard to imagine that when he first came to the farm, he couldn't stand on his own.

"At the time I was in a wheelchair. I was exposed to toxic chemicals when I was in Iraq and Afghanistan and I had some severe neurological issues," he said.

In just a few years, with hard work both in and out of the ring, Bowling has transitioned from a wheelchair, to a walker and cane, to standing and walking without assistance.

The staff, and the horses, at MTR have been there to guide him on this journey, even on his toughest days. Bowling recalled a time when he was taking a horse back to the barn after a ride.

"My legs were particularly painful and as I was trying to take him back to the barn I was having a hard time, and he could tell so he slowed down a little bit."

"There is a rapport between the rider and the horse and through that connection and their sensitivity, it really brings about a lot of strength, encouragement and support," he said.

Riding around the ring is riding toward change, growth and healing. Those are the goals that the staff at MTR seek for each person who hops on the back of their four-legged therapists.

"That’s the power of the horses, they’re not judgmental. They are who they are and you can be whoever you need to be around them.

Maryland Therapeutic Riding is hosting one of its biggest fundraisers, Derby Day. It will be held at the farm on Saturday May 6, with dinner, drinks, auctions and a live watch party of the Kentucky Derby. For more information, click here.