By the time the sun rises over David and Hellen Bee’s rolling 31 acres, three dozen animals have had their morning meal, including the eight hardest-working four-leggers on the farm, horses Zo, Sara, Happy, Flame, Shadow, Dance, Cash, and Trigger.
A few hours later, students begin arriving, and another day of Hoof & Paw Therapeutic Riding & Activity Center (TRAC) is in session. The center, which opened 19 years ago in northern Davidson County, aims to enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities, disadvantages, and special needs through horseback riding and related activities, appealing to their physical, mental, and emotional needs.
Ranging in age from 7 to 48, students learn much more than equestrian techniques.
“We work with the individuals on getting them to excel in their abilities, whether it’s with their social skills, motor skills, balance, independence, muscle strength, their concentration, confidence, and more,” Hellen explains.
With safety a top priority, Hellen evaluates each rider and establishes goals to ensure continued progress. Lessons begin with warm-up exercises, then move on to riding, games, and coursework before wrapping up with farm-skills training such as grooming, feeding, and cleaning stalls. The flow of each lesson really depends on the student’s individual abilities. “Anything they’re able to do, we’re there to help embrace and encourage them,” Hellen says.