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NIC welding students build stall fronts for new therapeutic riding program

Horses always brought out the best in Diana Clemons. She grew up with them as a child in Boise and even jumped competitively on the riding circuit. But it was her son Caleb and his relationship with horses that made her realize just how valuable using horses for therapy can be.
 
|photo1|Caleb was diagnosed with autism at 2 years old and she began to notice how much Caleb, now 13, enjoyed being around horses when she started her first boarding stable in 1994.
 
“He loved being around them,” Clemons said. “Not just riding, but grooming them and spending time in the barn. As a parent of a child with a disability, there aren’t many things for disabled people and their families to do. I felt like we found something that we could both enjoy together.”
 
Knowing that she wasn’t the only parent in the region that struggled for quality programs and activities for their disabled children, she wanted to offer her horses and their therapeutic qualities to other families.
 
“The movement of horses is steady, almost like a walking movement, which many disabled kids can’t or don’t do a lot of,” Clemons said. “But it’s not only riding. Sometimes just grooming or petting a horse is great for the kids. Think of what it’s like to control a 1,200-pound animal when you’re someone who has very little control over anything in your life. It’s powerful.”
 
She purchased property and began building a ranch in Rathdrum dedicated to therapeutic riding for disabled children called Harmony Ranch.
 
As the barn was designed and built, safety for the children, volunteers and horses was Clemons’ priority. That’s why traditional fronts on the horse stalls just wouldn’t do. Though the stall fronts were functional for a typical barn, she needed strong, steel gates that a wheelchair could fit through, but that could also remain closed so feeding could take place without opening the stall.
 
About a year ago, she approached the North Idaho College Welding program with her need and the instructor and students agreed to help. NIC Welding Instructor Ray Whiteside agreed to take on the stalls as a class project, to give his students practical experience with a project from conception to completion.
 
“This was a great opportunity for the students to have a fabrication experience that took them through the entire process,” Whiteside said. “And with this organization, we were really committed to the project.”
 
The ranch purchased the materials and students Jonathan Andring of Cocolalla, Andrew Wallace of Coeur d’Alene and Josh Berry of Rathdrum completed seven stall fronts for Harmony Ranch. Each student has since completed the NIC Welding program, earning their welding certificates.
 
“The Harmony Ranch board is eternally grateful to Ray and the students in the program for what they have done for us,” Clemons said. “Not only did it save us thousands of dollars, but it added a necessary component to the therapy center that we wouldn’t have without their help. We cannot thank them enough.”
 
Clemons has applied for nonprofit status for the ranch and has earned a certification through the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association. Though the ranch opened June 1, Clemons is still working on completing handicapped accessible components of the barn and is in the process of interviewing families interested in seeking lessons at the ranch.
 
For more information, call Harmony Ranch at (208) 687-2579.
 
Pictured above: Therapist and Harmony Ranch Board Member Desirea Britton works with Diana Clemons’ son Caleb on Dixie along with Caleb’s grandfather, Diana’s father, Raynor Clemons at Harmony Ranch.
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For More Information
NIC Welding Instructor Ray Whiteside, (208) 769-4376, or Diana Clemons of Harmony Ranch, (208) 687-2579



Posted: Friday, June 2, 2006

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