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Pay It Forward: Therapeutic Riding


The goal, as stated on its website, is to provide individuals with special needs a safe environment where they can achieve their dreams one ride at a time. We want to help them do that by paying it forward.

"This program has a way of changing lives and we do that by one ride at a time," said Tammy Voda, president of the Innovative Therapeutic Riding Program. It provides riding services for individuals with disabilities, or veterans, elderly, and youth at risk.

Voda said it's not just a casual ride in the park. The program is very strategic. They do consultations and exams to make sure they match the perfect horse with each client.

"The horse's movement sends a sensory input into their body. The way they walk, their gate, is the same as our hips and our pelvis as it rotates. So it sends blood flow, oxygen flow, it helps for tactile, vision, and every kind of other thing that we're working on with our client for sensory input," said Voda.

They work closely with parents and doctors to set goals and find objectives to meet those goals. All this to help with a client's motor skills and increase self-esteem and confidence in their daily lives. And it works. Duke swears by it.

"It fun. It really help us. And all handicapped kids need to ride and get out and. They're the best people out here," said Duke.

And so does Patrick.

"What is your favorite part about riding horses?" asked Eyewitness News anchor Todd Kunz.

"Like it," said Patrick.

"Why do you like it so much?" asked Kunz.

"Cuz my grandma used to have horses. And my grandpa used to have horses," said Patrick.

"How long you been riding?" asked Kunz.

"A while," said Patrick.

This program is a win-win-win. The clients benefit. Some of the horses are rescue horses. And the interns and volunteers from the community are gaining work and social experience through the interaction, such as Kaylee Leonard.

"Why would I rather stay at home when I can come help kids.," said Leonard.

"There's a huge need. We have over 48 clientele and we have more that need to work. We can only do this so often. We do this two days a week. We're here for 12 to 14 hours a day and there are people that could benefit from this program, but we don't have an avenue to get there until we have some more sponsors," said Voda.

Jake Schaefer Livestock donated the use of the arena barn and Doctor Jason Moulton in Blackfoot has offered some vaccinations. But that's our cue. Time to gather for a group photo and "Pay It Forward."

"Which one of you is Tammy?" asked Angie Nelson, Public Relations Specialist for Mountain America Credit Union.

"I am. What did I do this time?" said Voda.

"Hi Tammy," said Nelson.

"Hi how are you?" said Voda.

"My name is Angie," said Nelson.

"Nice to me you Angie," said Voda.

"Nice to meet you. I'm with Mountain America Credit Union and I'm here today because somebody in the community nominated you for a 'Pay It Forward.'" said Nelson.

"You're kidding me," said Voda.

"They think you're making a difference in the lives of everybody," said Nelson.

"Well the group is. I'm not," said Voda.

"Well because of that," said Nelson, holding a blue envelope.

"Fantastic," said Voda, knowing something good was about to happen.

"They think you're doing such a good job," said Nelson.

"I'm so surprised. It's like Christmas!" said Voda.

"We have $500 cash for you today to help you keep going," said Nelson.

"No way! Oh my goodness. Thank you! To help the program keep going?" asked Voda.

"Yes," said Nelson.

"Oh wait, I'm going to give you a hug and I don't know you! I will put that ($500) back in the envelope so I don't lose it. Thank you so much!" said Voda.

"You're welcome," said Nelson.

"I don't know who's done that, but whoever has done that (nominated), it's going to make a huge difference to keep the program going," said Voda.

"Good. Oh, we're so excited to hear that," said Nelson.

"Thank you!" said Voda.

"You're welcome. Thank you. Thank all of you," said Nelson.

"It's like Christmas. Yah!" said Voda.

Anyone can be a client. They also hold classes for able-bodied riders as well. The program website is

"Pay It Forward" airs the second Wednesday and Thursday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "Pay It Forward" on the right side of our website and fill out the form, or send an email to Eyewitness News anchor Todd Kunz at

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Todd Kunz

Todd is an anchor for Eyewitness News 3, Local News 8 and Fox 5.


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