Sue Bargeloh–Advice for Equestrian Therapists

What is your name?
Sue Bargeloh.

What is your occupation? If retired, retired from what?
Retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Worked there, and throughout the DOE complex, as a trainer, providing management training programs and facilitating organizational design.

How old are you?
Age is 30/32. My husband and I have used this method of describing age for years now, it seems to express a more truthful concept of how we actually feel.

Can you tell us a little about your method for telling your age?
My husband, Tom, is the one who came up with our method for determining age. We started in our forties, so at that time we looked back on our thirties with nostalgia. Consequently, it seemed appropriate to use 30 as the baseline, since we still felt like we should be in our 30’s, then add the appropriate number of years to be accurate: 30+12= 42, for example. In our fifties we began to start with 40 as a base and build from there. Now that we’re in our sixties, we should be using 50 as a base, but depending on how well–or not–I feel on the day I’m giving my age, I’ll use 30, 40 or 50 as a base.

Where do you live?
For now, in a motor home in campgrounds between Raleigh and Asheville. We have a house being built in Raleigh that is supposed to be finished in September.

The most interesting place you’ve visited?
Have done some world travel and lived in at least six different states, but recently I experienced a tactile art exhibit in Sarasota, Florida that was a truly interesting experience. A room was hung from floor to ceiling with different colored silk ribbons, all the same size. The experience was to walk through the room and experience the silk flowing against you from every direction, kind of like walking through a very thick, silken forest. Very zen, very beautiful. The other most interesting experience was watching–literally–saguaros bloom in the Sonoran Desert.

Your favorite meal would be?
Salad, cheese pizza.

Pet peeve?
People who litter and people who refuse to pick up after their dogs when they walk them in public.

Favorite book, or movie, or television show?
Don’t watch a lot of movies but: Mr. Holland’s Opus, Have many favorite books but two that come to mind tonight are To Kill a Mockingbird, A Man Called Ove.

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for….?
Giving me the strength to let go (one of my main learning objectives in this life).

Are you married or have you been? Any kids? Grandkids? Obnoxious and demanding pets?
Married (22 years), one step-daughter, one horse (Danny), two dogs (Sydney and Bridget) and one cat (Little cat). No obnoxious and demanding grandkids.

(Grin) Thanks. One thing many people don’t know you can do?
Reiki. Ride dressage. Play the piano.

Can you tell us a little about reiki?
Reiki, meaning ‘universal life force energy,’ is an alternative healing methodology in which a practitioner places hands on the patient to channel ch’i, or energy, in order to provide pain/stress relief and healing.

If you had any spare time, what would you do with it?
Write plays, write stories, write poems. Do yoga and ride bike. Volunteer at animal shelters and soup kitchens. Work for legalization of medical marijuana. Direct plays.

Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered.
I ran a therapeutic riding program in New Mexico that served handicapped children and adults. I was a Licensed Practical Nurse before changing careers. I’m an amateur actor. I’ve volunteered as a reading tutor. I love to garden. I am a late-in-life vegetarian. I saw one of the best Pink Floyd concerts, Dark Side of the Moon, in Pittsburgh in the 70’s. I met and spent time with Monty Roberts, the original Horse Whisperer. Many years ago I was able to spend time in Paris and actually speak French (now lost to me).

Great, and thanks much. Could you give some advice for people interested in therapeutic riding programs?
For those who might not be familiar with these programs, therapeutic riding uses horses to help people with physical, mental, and/or emotional disabilities. There are a variety of ways horses can be used to help people. I once established and ran a Recreational Therapy program where our riders were taught by certified instructors (me and three other women) how to actively engage in riding a horse to the extent possible given the type of disability of each rider. Recreational Therapy riding helps patients to relax; improve muscle tone, sensory and motor skills; and develop coordination, confidence, and well-being. At one point in our program, The North Mesa Riders, we had a physical therapist working with us, which elevated the program to a Hippotherapy program. In Hippotherapy Programs licensed physical therapists, occupational therapists, or speech and language pathologists guide the therapeutic team to encourage specific motor and sensory inputs for the rider’s benefit.

There are therapeutic riding programs all across the country, and there are several in the Asheville/Hendersonville/Brevard area. Most of these programs use a team of volunteers to assist the riders as needed: some riders need a volunteer walking beside them on either side of the horse and a volunteer leading the horse, while other riders may have only one side-walker volunteer, and a very few riders have full control of their horse. If you enjoy helping others, this is a hands-on, out-of-the-box way to make a difference. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

YOU DON”T HAVE TO HAVE HORSE EXPERIENCE. Volunteer training will teach you to be a horse leader and/or side walker. If horses frighten you, be prepared to lose that fear (or at least 90 percent of it–it never hurts to have some healthy respect when working around a large animal) and then fall in love and want a horse for your own. No one who watches how these amazing animals care for and manage their unstable riders can remain untouched. Warning: Falling in love with horses can lead to economic and marital stress.

EMBRACE THE DIRT, THE FLIES, AND THE MANURE. Don’t wear perfume, sandals, or shorts to the stable. Pull your hair back and don’t bother with make-up. Leave jewelry and fake nails behind. Your volunteer work will put you as close to God’s natural creative efforts as you can get in today’s urbanized landscape, so let go and enjoy it. The riders and the horses will love you despite your sweat and smudges. And if you have a dog, he/she will adore any smells and manure you bring home. As for other family members…well, maybe not so much.

GIVE YOURSELF EXTRA TIME when you volunteer. You’ll need time to help prepare horses for the next class and time to get riders lined up to the mounting ramp to get onboard. You’ll need plenty of extra time to listen to the riders as you get to know them because you’ll be helping them in a very unique and personal situation. They will become your friends and want to tell you about themselves, the disability they are struggling with, and the wonderful things they are learning from their horse. You’ll need time to talk with the instructors and other volunteers as you get to know them. They will become your friends as you work together to plan new ways of helping each rider achieve his or her goals. And you’ll certainly want time to brush and pet the horses you work with. They will become your friends and partners in making a difference to others and you will love feeling their energy and learning their individual personalities.

BE PREPARED FOR EMOTION. It’s hard not to feel humbled by the courage of a paraplegic who allows himself to be hoisted onto the back of a huge animal for a lesson in balance and motion, and you’ll feel exaltant when after weeks of grueling work that same person shares that his spinal flexibility has improved from riding. You’ll have to fight tears when you listen to a young girl sob because her classmates make fun of her disability at school, and then you’ll smile through those tears when she’s in the saddle, proud and confident on her horse, high above the rest of the world and full of power and magic. And you’ll chuckle when the class of ladies with MS decides they need an extra 30 minutes each week to spend time drinking iced tea and chatting after the lesson because they’re all such good friends now and, well, just because!

To find out more about therapeutic riding and its various types of programs, do a few web searches: you’ll be overwhelmed with information.

Thank you, Sue, and God bless. We appreciate the opportunity to get to know you a little. May your journey continue to be interesting and full.