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Be a part of Star

Be a part of Star
By Jennifer LB Leese

Jan Bailey knows exactly what it feels like to sit high on a horse. Jan, a resident of Spectrum Support in Hagerstown, visits Star Equestrian Center on Greencastle Pike in Hagerstown. Star Equestrian provides Jan and many others with a specialized, therapeutic riding program geared toward individuals with disabilities. Jan has been enjoying riding Danny, a Cleveland Bay, for a few years now.
The horse has inspired awe and admiration in humans for centuries. It's tremendous power, and willingness to serve, enables horses and humans to form a meaningful bond of trust. The horse is an amazingly intuitive animal, who judges all humans unconditionally. It is this capacity that allows equines to literally "lift" the human spirit. Our horses are a very important and vital part of our programs. Each horse is specially selected for their ability to respond to the emotions of participants and each has specific gifts and talents just as humans do.
"At first we had a hard time getting Jan to approach the horse, Murphy was the horse then, but now she's excited to come here," said Diana McCusker, Jan's support specialist.
"Jan has come a long way, said Ginny Gaylor, certified equestrian therapist and program director.
Upon arrival, Jan helps Ginny get the bucket to brush Danny and get him ready for work. Together they walk Danny to the arena from which Jan climbs onto his back. With Jan giving the commands, Ginny, Jan, Diana, and Danny make their way to the program centers that are placed within the arena. Under the direction of their instructor, riders take on challenges such as balancing on the horse, learning to steer, control and interact with a horse specially chosen and trained as a therapy partner. Riders participate in exercises, learn riding skills, interact in games and learn how to care for their mount.
"Our riders gain a sense of independence, which could not otherwise be achieved. Riders benefit from the interaction between other riders, volunteers, instructors and the warm supportive horse."
Equine assisted activities for challenged riders began in the US in the 1960's. NARHA was established in 1969. The horse and human union can produce some remarkable results. Many of these results stretch beyond the physical.
Riders are assisted by horse leaders and side-aides benefiting from the movement of the horse, which strengthens and relaxes muscles. Challenged riders range in age from 2 through adult. Classes are goal-oriented and designed to teach all aspects of horsemanship.
"We serve many different types of disabilities," said Ginny.
Star Equestrian Center opened in 1998 following a 10-year vision for equine therapy in Western Maryland. Star has 501c3 non-profit status. The center focuses on the importance of individualized programming and safety for each rider through initial riding assessments. Over the past 11 years, center staff have continued to learn and grow. Currently the center serves abled and challenged riders in many types of equine activities. They are accredited through Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) and is a North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) operating center.
"Our goals include using the world of equines to enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities, instilling hope for at-risk youth, and increasing confidence in all who participate."
Volunteers are a huge part of Star. "Without volunteers," Ginny says, "these kids would miss a great opportunity to discover themselves and release their potential."
Helping others feels great. Join the Star Equestrian Center team where volunteers do something meaningful in the lives of others every day. Volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks such as feeding horses, office assistance, completing barn chores, maintenance, and helping with medical. "Work isn't too demanding, not hard manual work," Ginny informed me. "It's great for seniors." It's also a great way for students to learn their SSLs.
Star Equestrian Center are in need of items. Below are a few items from their wish list. Visit for a more detailed list.
Hay bales, square or round bales
Murphy Oil Soap, leather cleaners, Neastsfoot Oil
Horse and draft size horse halters
Duct tape
Horse treats
Fly spray
Stall mats
Cases of soda and water
Hand sanitizer
Facial tissues
To Keep the Center Clean:
45-gallon yard & leaf bags
Laundry detergent
Bleach & Cleaning supplies
Star Equestrian Center is located at 13757 Broadfording Church Road in Hagerstown. For more information call 301-791-0011 or visit
Look for the Barnyard Jamboree this weekend!
Spectrum Support, currently serving 200 individuals, is a non-profit agency helping people with developmental disabilities such as mental retardation, autism, seizure disorders or cerebal palsy to live, learn, work and play in supportive communities.
The company recognizes that all people should have the right to live in their community with the support they need. Adults with developmental disabilities should have the opportunity to lifestyles and opportunities just as other members of their community.
Spectrum Support began in 1989 by Ron and Dena Ward Clayton with the goal of providing life skills programming for individuals who were inappropriately housed. Their message statement is clear: "Transitioning, training, and promoting personal growth with individuals who have developmental, psychiatric, behavioral, and physical disabilities by building upon their individual strengths. Individuals will be encouraged to reach their potential at school, at work, in the place of residence, and in the community; thereby, enhancing self-esteem as well as value and position in society."
Spectrum Support, Inc. has three locations in Hagerstown, Baltimore, and Cresaptown, as well as the home office in Eldersburg, Maryland. Call the Hagerstown office at 301-791-1242 or visit for more information.

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