Podcast: Windrush Farm Seeks Volunteer Horse Handlers and Side Walkers

Spring at Windrush Farm. (Courtesy photograph.)

The holiday season provides many opportunities to help others and, at the Windrush Farm, that includes helping people and horses.

The Windrush Farm Therapeutic Riding Center’s Executive Director Janet Nittmann, a recent guest on WHAV’s morning program, said the North Andover-Boxford line center has a need for more “horse handlers.”

“These are people who lead the horse when it’s necessary, and many times it is necessary to help the rider until they become more independent. Our goal is to teach them to become more independent riders,” she said.

Nittman says there is also a need for side walkers. Many of the farm’s clients appreciate the side walkers, because they help them with their balance while riding.

“We do have people who have multiple sclerosis or have had a stroke and they really appreciate the support of the side walkers. We have wonderful volunteers who have been coming to the farm for years and they form a team with the rider, and usually their favorite horse and they all work together to this very enriching experience,” she said.

Nittmann says the Windrush Farm Therapeutic Riding Center has about 140 clients, with most of them riding about once a week. There is a volunteer staff, numbering around 100, and they are always looking for more people to donate time.

“Side walkers who help the rider stay in the saddle in the nice position, help with their riding skills. They do not need horse experience and they are helping the rider. Then, we need horse handlers. Those people do need horse experience and they are the people who lead the horse. So, two completely different roles. And, we also have grounds projects. We do have people coming from corporations and local schools and community groups to help work on the farm because we have 38 acres and anybody who has a backyard knows that there’s always work to do, there’s always things to do at Windrush,” she explained.

Windrush Farm, in North Andover, provides equine-assisted services for children and adults with physical, cognitive and emotional challenges. It is one of the oldest, leading and largest therapeutic riding centers in the United States. It is also accredited as a Premier Center by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship. There is more information at windrushfarm.org.

Besides WHAV.net, WHAV’s “Merrimack Valley Newsmakers” podcasts are available via Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, TuneIn and Alexa.

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