Therapeutic and Recreational Riding Center to open new facility

March 10, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

Deepa Long was 2 1/2 years old when her right leg was severed and her mother was killed in a train wreck in India.

She was lucky to be alive, and luckier still to be adopted by an American couple who brought her to Columbia and raised her.

Now Deepa has discovered new legs, and in the words of poet John Anthony Davis, "wings to fly me on a pleasure course, for I can mount and ride a horse."

Deepa read that poem, "I Can," in honor of the Therapeutic and Recreational Riding Center in Lisbon, where interaction with horses is used as medicine for mental and physical disabilities.

She and her fellow riders were among about 500 people who celebrated 10 years of the center's operation and the groundbreaking for its new state-of-the-art facility in Glenwood.

Listening to the poem from his wheelchair was James S. Brady, who was wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on former President Ronald Reagan. He is a regular rider at a Washington therapy center.

"Instead of wheels and a stick, it puts some legs under you," said Mr. Brady, who served as Mr. Reagan's press secretary. He quoted his former boss, who played his share of Hollywood cowboys -- "The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man -- or woman, for that matter."

What Mr. Brady has learned, and what the center provides for its clients, is the benefit of a set of strong legs for people who lack them and the self assurance that comes from being able to communicate with horses.

"That sense of communication is what many of us so-called 'horse people' take for granted all too often," said Kevin Bruce, president of the Howard County Horse Show Association.

Mr. Bruce said he has been impressed by the quality of the riders from the center who compete in local horse shows.

Christina Albert, 12, a quadriplegic because of cerebral palsy, presented Mr. Brady, who is known as "The Bear," with //TC handmade replica of the original "Teddy Bear" inspired by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Christina, who is from Boyds in Montgomery County, has been riding more than two years with a therapist on the center's 12 rented acres in Lisbon.

The nonprofit riding center purchased the 55-acre Glenwood property Feb. 28, and plans for the new facility include an indoor riding arena, a conference center, occupational treatment rooms and a pool for water therapy, said Helen S. Tuel, the center director.

The new center, estimated to cost $6 million, would also include larger and more modern stables, with room to expand from about 40 horses and ponies to about 60. The complex would also include a fishing pond, playground and garden with topiary Walt Disney characters.

"I know such a modern center will seem like heaven to those of you who have been so patient with us as we outgrew our home in Lisbon -- a place that, though now inadequate, has served us well and has truly been a place of believing and nurturing," Dr. Tuel said. "Together, we have shared a lot of happiness and tears there."

John Tuel, who helps his wife run the center, said it would take two and a half to three years to finish the new center, depending on how contributions came in.

The shell of the 200-foot by 100-foot pavilion, however, should be finished by May, he said.

Dr. Tuel said Saturday's event and related contributions raised as much as $10,000.

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