Claremore Rotarians learned Tuesday about the Bit by Bit Therapeutic Horseback Ridging Center.
If not straight from the literal horse’s mouth, then from the next best thing — the center’s founder and director Linda Barron.
“I came across a quote the other day which made me smile, because I’ve been so fortunate to experience this in my own life,” Barron said. “The quote says ‘It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together’ and I’ve been very, very fortunate to be in that position, especially with Bit by Bit.
“I come from an equine background and have always had a heart for individuals with special needs,” she continued. “While I was getting my education and training, there were less requirements — no IEP’s, no special classes — if you were having trouble, you went down to the Special Ed room for a while and if things clicked, you would go back to regular classes, there wasn’t the formality that exists (in special education) today, but I’ve been fortunate to find myself very fortunate to be in a field which helps persons with special needs — my passion.
“I started the Bit by Bit program and many of you probably already know this, in 1997, here on RSU campus with myself, one horse, four students whom I’d taught at Oologah schools and one broken down tractor,” she said. “It was an idea that I’d gotten as a way to motivate and encourage individuals using horses as therapy. This was really before animal therapies were as prevalent as they are today, and using horses (as therapy) is really an older practice. It’s been interesting and fun for me to watch how animals, not just horses, have been used in improving the quality of people’s lives and the lives of their families, and Bit by Bit has done that.”
Today, Bit by Bit has grown to include 70 students weekly, who come to the new facility on SH169, with 14 horses, Barron said.
“These students and family members present us with all kinds of special needs,” she said. “Some (needs) are very evident — physically — but we also have some of our students may have special circumstances or challenges in their lives that are less evident. We’ve found through our work that the therapy offered to the students and the parents and families of these children and adults, besides the physical, emotional and cognitive skills this program brings, the families also benefits,” she said. “When you have a special needs child or family member, it’s easy to become isolated. Sometimes, because of the time involved in caring for that person, to get them the services or therapy or equipment they need, but Bit by Bit helps break that pattern of isolation — it helps the students and families to socialize more, and see their children enjoying themselves.
“For some of those parents, those times when things are really challenging and they feel overwhelmed, bringing their children to Bit by Bit allows them to see their children experience success and inclusion and I have to tell you, to those parents, that can mean the world,” she said.
Bit by Bit therapy horses are trained and cared for by a professional Equine Coordinator.
Horses are used in classes following North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) guidelines to ensure they are sound and fit to provide therapy to our riders.
Following Barron’s address, Rotarians briefly discussed the upcoming chili supper fundraiser, to benefit the Claremore Public Schools Foundation. The 25th Annual Rotary Supper is scheduled from 5-7 p.m. on Nov. 2 in the Claremore High School cafeteria, with a drawing to be held for an LCD big screen HD TV.
Tickets for the chili supper are available from any member of the Rotary Club of Claremore.