By Justin SewardCommentator/ Courier
When Forsyth Ranch Arena owner Morley Forsyth purchased the property just off Township Road 120 in Cypress County, he weighed his options as to how to use the indoor riding arena to help connect children’s therapy and horseback riding.
He had gone through a divorce six years ago and it was five years ago he commuted two and a half hours from his Saskatchewan ranch to the arena where he boarded a horse.
The feeling of riding his horse changed his outlook on life while going through a tough time.
“It kind of made me feel that I could forget my worries for awhile. It was so relaxing,” he said.
“During the time I was doing that, the arena come up for sale, and it’s not something I would ever imagine. But it’s what it did for me and wanted to be able to expand that for other people that are going through issues.”
Once he took over the property, the indoor riding arena began with riding lessons, barrel racing, team roping and expanded two years ago into a Speech Therapy program.
“The riding lessons got to be very popular,” he said.
“We’ve got two full time riding instructors. The biggest thing is to have enough horse power to handle the kids.”
Families have seen change in their children since they have gotten up on the saddle.
“I have had so many parents come to me after their daughter or son have been in it and say how it changed their life,” said Forsyth.
“There’s one mom that would come and we were just talking and I said how nice her daughter was and how she loved riding horses and how I appreciated her being respectful. She goes ‘I guess now you say she’s coming here she’s a totally different kid.’”
“That’s what we’re seeing is we’ve had a lot of kids getting in trouble. They get set to come into the arena and it just changes their whole focus on life.”
His focus on the young riders had come from his ranching background and when he saw many kids not having the opportunity to ride a horse or to experience a ranching and farming life.
“My goal my whole life was to be more than just horses,” he said.
“I always wanted a place where I could bring school tours to. I could teach kids the real ranch life and not what they see on the movies. This is just a glimpse of the whole package that I wanted to do. But at least I’m getting this much where they can come out and see the horses. The horse is a powerful animal that you got to respect it. Whereas on the movies, the rider can do what they want.”
The Speech Therapy program with speech therapists and places a focus special needs kids.
“Something to do with riding the horse increases the core muscles and they say words they normally can’t say. It’s hard to actually believe but if you’ve seen it, it’s absolutely amazing,” said Forsyth.
A successful speech story came a year ago when a mother brought in her five-year-old special needs son.
“I asked about what she thought of the program and she started to cry,” he recalled.
“I said I’m sorry. She said ‘ no it’s a good cry.’ She said ‘I started coming here three weeks ago. This is the third time my son has been here. I can understand what he is saying but nobody else could understand what he is saying.’”
“‘I’m scared to death with horses. I was afraid I would pass that on to my son.’
On the first day, he was laughing and giggling and loved it. That day they were here, the horse’s name was Buck and when they were walking out of the barn I opened up the door and my son turned around and said ‘Bye Buck.’”
Speech therapy is all day on Mondays and Wednesdays.
The Irvine School Equestrian program has been a pilot project this year for equine students to come learn riding skills over the winter months.
Horse shows and 4H events are also being held at the indoor arena.
More information on programs can be found at http://www.forsythrancharena.com.