Written By Alex Burstein
At the Therapeutic Riding Center of Israel (TRCI), dogs and horses become more than ordinary pets and farm animals.
As Efrat Aldman, Chief Financial Officer of the center, sees it, the animals help provide much more than a furry friend.
“The most special thing in animal treatment is that the animals won’t judge you, whatever you do,” Ardman said. “You can be tall, you can be short, you can be thin, fat, whatever. You can be disabled, but they won’t judge you. So, these children, they can feel it, they can improve their self confidence [and] they can improve their communication with people by the treatment of the animals.”
Sunday morning, Israel Connect students visited the TRCI during Lev L’Lev, the groups’ community day of service, helping out with a youth camp aimed at connecting kids with the animals emotionally.
“Today we helped the kids who maybe are struggling with stuff in their personal life and getting out here and being with the horses and everything makes kids feel so much better,” Carly Dvorkin, a Maccabi USA equestrian athlete, said. “It’s something about horse therapy that really just lets the children connect to themselves.”
Dvorkin, who started riding around three years old, says she has leaned on her horses for support in the past.
“Every time when I was young I used to come to cry to my horse because whenever I needed someone to talk to or whatever, it just always helped me feel better,” Dvorkin said.
TRCI now hopes to bring that opportunity to connect animals to more people, which was on full display during the Israel Connect visit.
Athletes were split into groups, which included helping the kids clean the horses, ride horses around the ring or hang out with dogs.
Jack Abady, an open men’s softball player, got to interact with the dogs and care for the horses. But, his favorite part of the experience went beyond the animals.
“The best part I would say is interacting with the kids. I think that the connection, the smiles, the questions they had, the questions we had, really made this experience worthwhile,” Abady said.
After three days of touring popular sights in Israel, Abady was happy to take a step back and interact with some of the people of the country.
“I know the kids that we spoke to before, the smile on their faces made our day, so I think that it’s really been a worthwhile experience, not only to connect to the land, but to connect to the people who live here,” Abady said.
While Maccabi USA athletes and coaches were excited to help, the TRCI was equally appreciative for the help.
“We are very proud that [Maccabi USA] chose us and that [they] came here, all of these athletes, and it makes us very proud that we can show [this to] young Jewish people from all over the world.”
Ardman is focused on helping bring more volunteers, as well as other things, into the organization through her role as a manager.
“By managing it very good, as I try to, I can bring more money here, I can bring more people to volunteer, and by these actions, we can give more people a better life, better treatments and they can actually proceed and get better.”
It’s a tall task for TRCI, who say they are the only stable in the country solely devoted to therapeutic riding. According to staff at the center, Israel is one of the world leaders in animal therapy.
While the movement hasn’t spread much yet in the United States, Dvorkin may help change that in the future.
“I have always planned in the future to open a therapeutic center like this,” Dvorkin said. “So it was really interesting to see the impact that it had [today].”