Lander University and Burton Center will hold an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, Oct. 27, to celebrate completion of the first phase of Lander's new Equestrian Center, located on Burton Center's campus at 2605 Hwy. 72/221 in Greenwood.
The event, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., will include a demonstration of therapeutic riding, a form of physical therapy for disabled young people and adults. There will also be a presentation of horsemanship skills by members of Lander's equestrian team. Fin N' Filet of Greenwood will provide refreshments.
An outdoor arena for the therapeutic riding program and a barn to stable the equestrian team's horses and store its riding equipment are ready for use. In phase two the arena will be covered and another barn and a therapeutic riding complex will be built.
Lander President Dr. Daniel Ball said, "When it is complete, the university's equestrian center will be the only one of its kind in South Carolina. This facility will benefit our students, Burton Center consumers and the community at large."
Nancy Poston of Hodges, who has bachelor's and master's degrees in elementary and special education and more than 15 years experience teaching in South Carolina public schools, is the director of the equestrian center. Poston, whose family owns seven horses, is excited about the opportunity to combine two of her passions - working with horses and helping children and adults with special needs.
"There are certain aspects about equine therapy that can't be duplicated in other forms of therapy," she said. "Horses are wonderful therapy animals. They show unconditional affection, and people respond positively to the emotional and physical connection with the animal."
The therapeutic riding program, known as hippotherapy, will be available to Burton Center consumers and the general public beginning Oct. 14. Beth Wood, an occupational therapist and a hippotherapy clinical specialist, is the program coordinator.
Hippotherapy uses the movement of horses to provide physical, occupational, and speech and language therapy for people with disabilities to improve their muscle tone, balance, posture, coordination, motor development and emotional well-being.
Riding therapy also presents a number of educational opportunities for Lander students in a variety of majors from special education to business and continuing education. Poston said those opportunities are being developed and could be offered as early as fall of 2010.
The equestrian center is the product of a partnership between Lander, The Lander Foundation and Burton Center. Lander's equestrian team had been practicing at a local barn when university officials approached Burton Center and proposed an equestrian facility to serve the needs of the university, Burton Center and the community.
Founded in 1971, Burton Center is a nonprofit governmental agency serving about 1,300 people from Greenwood and surrounding counties who have a wide range of disabilities and special needs. A therapeutic equestrian program fits in well with founder Felton Burton's master plan for the center, said son Jimmy Burton, interim executive director of Burton Center and a 1977 Lander alumnus.
"For us, this was an opportunity to jumpstart Felton's vision for riding trails on our campus," he said. "The Equestrian Center will provide an area where our consumers can work and receive the benefits of equine therapy and interaction with students."
In 2007, Lander's equestrian program received $200,000 from the estate of Jim Barnes, whose wife, Delene Barnes, attended Lander in the 1930s. The bequest rejuvenated the program and, this summer, the university hired Greenwood native Mary Hughston to coach the team.
Funding for the equestrian center was rolled into the financial package for Lander's Recreation, Wellness and Sports Complex, said Adam Taylor, vice president for University Advancement and executive director of The Lander Foundation.
Taylor said several sponsorship opportunities are available for private and corporate donors, including the arenas, pastures and barns. "An investment in the Lander University Equestrian Center will yield positive returns for the entire community for generations to come."
Further information about Lander's Equestrian Center and its therapeutic riding program can be obtained by calling Nancy Poston at 864-388-8541.