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I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Ruth Quinn

Finding a ticket to ride

i am a hudson valley parent

For most families, riding horses is just a fun activity. But for Ruth Quinn and her three children, it is a therapeutic passion.

Quinn and her children – twins Josephine and Liam age 11, and son Josh age 9 – live in New Paltz, but spend much of their time volunteering at Frog Hollow Farms in Esopus. There, Quinn is the care coordinator for the farm’s Horses for a Change Program where she writes grants to help families receive funds for therapeutic riding.

In a nutshell, Quinn helps connect riders to individual funding sources from agencies or foundations so cost won’t keep them from enjoying and benefitting from the program.

As a part-time computer programmer for the village of New Paltz, she says her previous years working for various non-profits, grant writing and dealing with multiple agencies for her son helped her develop the skills she needs for the Horses for a Change Program. Her experience navigating special needs services spans over a decade, driven largely by Liam’s autism spectrum diagnosis and helping her become an advocate leading parents through the challenging course of agencies and service providers.

“I speak the languages of Office of Mental Health, Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities, and State Education – each of these agencies has their own unique language with tons of acronyms and different eligibility criteria that can be daunting for parents,” she says. “I learned more about the systems available and became an advocate.”

Experience is a good teacher

When Liam was 3 ½, they attended a few therapeutic riding classes through the program and she was impressed by how quickly he responded to the horses. “After only a few sessions he was able to engage his core and his communication improved,” she says.

After a bit of a break, Quinn returned to Frog Hollow Farms when Liam was around 10. It was then she reconnected with her own passion for riding horses, and this time she knew she wasn’t here just for Liam.

“There are days where I have been reduced to tears – along with other volunteers – because of the progress the riders make. Therapeutic riding is obviously great at helping riders to develop skills, but it is much more than that,” she says, adding that in addition to the farm’s commitment to helping families with economic challenges they offer programs for cancer survivors and folks with PTSD and anxiety disorders.

A Place to Call Their Own

Today, Quinn and her children have each found their niche in the program. Quinn and Josephine take lessons in addition to volunteering while Josh trains for competitions and Liam enjoys the therapeutic riding. “This is a place that is truly inclusive and where I can be with all three of my children at once,” she says.

For Quinn, the authentic learning experience that reinforces what he has gained in individual therapies is a big draw.

“No matter how Liam feels before we get to Horses for a Change, he is always happy when he gets there because he feels accepted and because he can do so much,” she says.

Finding Balance

With all that she has on her plate Quinn has learned over the years to let things go, learning “along the way to not judge yourself by any one action,” she says. “Don’t beat yourself up. You just do better next time. In fact, our family motto has become: Do better next time.”

A sense of humor also helps when it comes to surviving the demands of parenthood. Having three children – all with individual needs – can be a challenge to make everyone happy, but Quinn has learned you make choices that are the best for everyone.

“Having [had] three kids under the age of three has created some ridiculous moments that may not have been funny at the moment. But, you can choose to be overwhelmed or find the humor.”

Roxanne Ferber is a writer and blogger for Hudson Valley Parent. Find more from her at www.thewhatevermom.com

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