Mac, a 31-year-old gelding, nudges Sally Brandom’s head with his own as she slips a bridle on him. Brandom leads him to the riding arena at Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center.
At complete ease on a horse, Brandom doesn’t bother to saddle Mac for her training session. A barn manager at the riding center, she is working with him to make him more flexible going around turns. Mac has been specially trained to work with people who have cognitive or physical disabilities.
“It’s hard because I can’t use my legs,” Brandom says.
One of Mac’s riders is a woman paralyzed from the waist down, so when Brandom works with him, she simulates paralysis.
Working at the riding center combines Brandom’s love of riding with her career path. She is attending William Woods University, taking classes in the special education program.
“Coming out here and working with the horses and kids with disabilities gives me a lot of exposure to two things I really like to do,” Brandom says, adding that she likes making a difference in the riders’ lives.
Brandom finishes her training session and leads Mac back to the barn, enjoying the outdoors and last vestiges of fall. She is gentle and affectionate with him as she brushes him down.
Alleta Kyd, 22, another barn manager at the riding center, describes Brandom as a hard worker who really understands the horses and how to take care of them.
“She knows what she’s doing,” Kyd says.
Though Brandom’s parents never rode, she feels it’s something she needs to do.
“I’ve always just loved riding,” Brandom says.