Therapy riding center to open in ’14

JACOBSBURG – A new tool in the field of therapy will be coming to the Ohio Valley in early 2014, one that bring a smile to the face of both the young and old who are in need of its services.

A equine therapeutic riding center called RJ Ranch will be open in Jacobsburg.

The facility is owned and operated by Julie Larish, an Ohio Valley native who long ago moved to Grangeville, Idaho.

Grangeville is where Larish first opened the facility, but when she moved back to the Buckeye State, she transferred the facility’s 501 (C) 2 status with her.

The center is designed primarily as a therapeutic riding center for physically, emotionally and mentally challenged individuals.

“Our mission is to improve the mind, body and souls of children and adults with disabilities through equine-assisted therapy and to be an inspiration and education resource to the therapeutic riding profession locally, regionally and nationally.

“We will work to increase awareness of disabilities in the community.”

Larish admitted one of the benefits of equine therapeutic riding is that the horse’s gait is similar to that of a human.

“It has the natural gait of a person walking and people with muscle tone issues, their trunk gets a workout,” Larish said. “But it’s also important because it has a calming effect. It’s a stress reducer that helps put a child or adult at ease.”

Part of Larish’s 5-year-plan is to employ a mental health profession, or a licensed occupation or physical therapist on staff. By doing so, Medicaid will actually cover some of the therapy sessions RJ Ranch will offer.

Starting out, donations will work to cover some of the kids’ riding sessions for those who are unable to afford it.

Larish is also working at filling out grant applications that will help to offset the costs.

RJ Ranch is North American Riding Handicapped Association certified and will soon be PATH International certified.

The facility is fully handicapped accessible. Down the road, however, Larish hopes to erect an indoor riding facility at the ranch because she feels the therapy sessions, especially for children, are most effective when conducted year-round.

Currently, RJ Ranch has 10 therapy horses in the field. An 11th horse is on the ranch, but that belongs to Larish’s daughter, who is one of her top assistants. She admits that while her daughter is great with the kids, her horse is not and is thus not used as part of the program.

Larish’s first year in Idaho, she worked with 38 students in a town with a population of 3,500. She’s worked with patients that have autism, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, developmental disabilities and behavior disorders.

The riding sessions are also highly beneficial for children suffering from mental and physical abuse. Her youngest rider has been 4-years-old. The oldest was a 98-year-old man who wanted one last ride.

During the sessions, the horse has a leader walking in front, along with two side walkers to insure safety of the rider.

The facility employs five people and also utilizes the service of volunteers to serve as side walkers.

Larish’s services don’t begin and end at the ranch’s gates, however. For example, in the past she’s gone to IEP meetings for children, talked about her services and also offered suggestions of how to assist in the child’s progression.

In the coming months, Larish will be hosting a community evening to discuss the center, its medical benefits and to give a demonstration. It will be open to medical personnel and community members.

For more information, call (740) 686-2989 or (208) 484-6227. It is located at 49586 Jacobsburg Key Rd.

Hughes may be reached at