If you have driven past the Spirit Ride campus lately, you may have noticed what appear to be a collection of colorful outdoor sculptures at this popular Therapeutic Riding facility. While not intended to be pieces of art, they most certainly are uplifting and visually stimulating. The purpose of what has come to be dubbed, ‘Colorful Cacti’ is not artistic, but rather, therapeutic in nature. Designed and built by Eagle Scout candidate, Russell Miller, the PVC Cactus structures are used by the center’s students (aka/Spirit Riders) for a variety of purposes. Some riders learn to identify colors, improve sequencing, and develop memorization strategies by using the seven brightly colored ‘cactus’. Other riders may develop motor planning skills by simply having points of reference in which to guide their horse or plan methods of turning the horse around a cactus. Other common uses are physical in nature such as; throwing objects through an opening, placing hoops on hooks, and crossing midline to retrieve an item placed on one of the ‘cactus arms’. Spirit Ride Executive Director, Patty Adams shares, “The new addition to Spirit Ride is so creative that our riders don’t realize they are ‘working’ on anything – they are just having fun and feeling accomplished. We could not be more grateful to Russell for choosing Spirit Ride as the place to complete his project.” Russel tells us, “I chose to complete my project at Spirit Ride on the recommendation of Brad Barber.” Brad is an Eagle Scout at BOA Troup #109 as well as a Spirit Ride Volunteer. Russel continues, “I thought this would be a new and interesting Eagle Scout project.”
When initially planning the project, Russell put much thought and effort into the design. By consulting with members of Spirit Ride’s Board of Directors, a veterinarian and local builder, he first developed a prototype to be used as a trial. After making adjustments to the first design, he ultimately created seven unique, sturdy and safe learning stations. In addition to building the ‘cacti’, Miller purchased educational supplies for the project such as outdoor counting games, phonics blocks, mathematics beanbags, and several types of manipulatives. Because Russell worked so hard to raise money for this project, he was able to not only build the stations and purchase educational supplies but will put the remainder of the funds raised into an Amazon gift card to be used for additional supplies needed for Spirit Ride.
Russell has belonged to the Boy Scouts of America Troup #109 in Boone, NC for the past 6 years. He is scheduled to receive the Eagle Scout badge on December 11, 2018.
Therapeutic riding is an equine-assisted activity for the purpose of contributing positively to the cognitive, physical, emotional and social well-being of individuals with special needs.
Spirit Ride Therapeutic Riding Center (Banner Elk, NC) is a 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to provide children with special needs the opportunity to learn, grow and strive to become their ideal selves through equine related therapeutic activities. All services are provided free of charge to accepted clients. For more information about Spirit Ride, please visit SpiritRideNC.org.