Melissa Searcy, the director of Equines Assisting Special Individuals, said 220 bike riders registered for the 6th Annual EASI Ride, a motorcycle ride and poker run held Saturday at the Green Horn Saloon in Jasper.
The ride was organized by local motorcycle enthusiasts, A.C. Lane, Melissa Atkins Lane and Rocky Cleveland.
“We’re so thankful to everyone who participated in this year’s ride, especially A.C., Melissa and Rocky, they’re all wonderful people,” Searcy said. “We are a nonprofit organization and the money raised at this event each year allows us to be able to continue our many programs. It also helps us raise awareness about our facility and what we do here.”
EASI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which was formed in July 2005, that provides safe and effective therapeutic riding for individuals with disabilities or special needs in Walker County and the surrounding areas.
“EASI is currently one of six Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International Premiere Accredited Centers in Alabama, and we’re very proud of that,” Searcy said. “Besides our programs for individual children and adults with special needs, we also serve host field trips for preschools and elementary schools.”
Kelly McLain, a new member of the EASI Board of Directors and the parent of an EASI student, said the program has been a blessing to her family, especially for her daughter Cari Beth.
“Cari Beth was born with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, which causes a number of developmental and academic delays. Cari Beth’s biggest delay is her speech,” McLain said. “Before we learned about EASI she didn’t talk in full sentences. We started coming to the EASI facility in the fall of 2011, and since then she has become more social and self-confident. She loves talking about her horse and showing everyone the horses and barn.”
McLain said they learned about EASI from Cari Beth’s occupational therapist, who noticed an interest in horses.
“The folks here at EASI worked up a plan and began working with Cari Beth on her colors and shapes while she was on the back of a horse,” McLain said. “She’s even read a book on the back of the horse.”
Searcy said Cari Beth is just one of the students who have benefitted from the various riding programs offered at EASI.
“Cari Beth has just blossomed and not a one of our horses intimidate her or make her feel small. She’s just as big as they are,” Searcy said. “In fact, she has participated in our summer camp, two horse shows, and even performed in the opening ceremony of our rodeo last year.”
Searcy said Cari Beth’s growth has been wonderful to watch and she hopes one day Cari Beth will be able to have her own horse.
“We hope we can continue to have more and more success stories like Cari Beth’s, but we rely solely on funds we raise either through private donations or events like this weekends EASI Ride or our upcoming rodeo in an effort to continue our programs,” Searcy said. “We’re also hoping to make some improvements to the property where our barn and facilities are located, which would include an enclosed arena so we could operate year round.”
Searcy said EASI currently operates five days a week, but the weather often plays a big role in whether or not sessions are held, delayed or even canceled altogether.
“If we had an indoor arena we wouldn’t have to worry about the weather, we could just move our sessions inside and continue right on,” Searcy said. “We would also like to add some additional trails and gardens to the property in an effort to give our students a variety of things to see and do, but that all takes money, and that’s something we don’t have a lot of right now.”
The EASI Facility is located just off Alabama Highway 69 North at 242 Summerville Road in Boldo. Searcy and her staff, and all the EASI students and volunteers encourages everyone to come out any day of the week and check out the horses, barn and the programs offered there.
If you would like more information about the programs offered at EASI or if you would like to make a donation, just visit www.easitrc.org.