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New therapeutic riding program fulfills a dream
Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber - 12/20/2017
Fulfilling a long-held dream, islander Julia Montagnet has started a therapeutic horse work and riding program on Vashon for people with disabilities and those recovering from trauma.
Montagnet, a certified PATH International therapeutic riding instructor, and co-founder and counselor Loren Cline, a licensed mental health counselor, have incorporated the nonprofit Tasha Therapeutic Riding Center (TTRC) and hope to begin offering services in January, as soon as they have enough money for the liability insurance.
"As soon as we can raise the money, we will get started," Montagnet said. "We already have a list of people on the island who want these programs."
Montagnet shared details of her own long-term struggles with rheumatoid arthritis and an anxiety disorder and of how horses and riding have helped her. It was from these personal experiences that her dream to help others in the same way ultimately came to fruition.
"I thought it was a pipe dream for a long time," she explained. "But I was working at a camp in Redmond, and I became the 'go-to' instructor for kids with disabilities anyway, so I eventually ended up going to PATH to get certified."
Then Montagnet met Cline, a therapist who lives in Renton, at the Vashon Farmers Market one Saturday. As fate would have it, Cline had always wanted to do healing work that involved horses but didn't have the experience that Montagnet has. The rest, as they say, is soon to be history.
For now the program will run at the island's Paradise Ridge Equestrian Park, but Montagnet said the goal is for TTRC to have its own facility.
"At the moment, we'll only be able to work with clients who can stand on their own or who would be able to get on a horse from a mounting plank," she said. "We can get a wheelchair ramp or build one once we have our own place."
Another goal for TTRC is to add some larger horses to its stables. Currently the organization has three: Mr. Geir, Frosty and Rain — who ran as a candidate in Vashon's Unofficial Mayor race this past summer — all of whom are on the small side. Rain is tiny enough that she can make visits to nursing facilities and hospices. And even though Montagnet describes all three as amazing therapy animals, their size will limit the size of the clients that TTRC can take initially.
"For a while we'll have to set a client weight limit of about 140 pounds," she noted.
A key piece of TTRC's mission will be to provide services despite a client's ability to pay, so fundraising will be ongoing to ensure that scholarships are available to those who need them.
And the name?
"Tasha was a wonderful horse that helped me so much in my recovery," Montagnet said, "and was the horse that my son learned to ride on. She died a couple of years ago, so it just seemed right to honor her this way."
Anyone interested in TTRC services should contact Montagnet via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those interested in donating for the liability insurance or in general can go to gofundme.com/supportttr.