About Centaur Stride
Centaur Stride was the idea of Harry Monroe. It was a “grassroots” project that required many volunteers to become a reality. The not-for-profit was granted incorporation in 1991. For the first two years, the programs operated under the Chautauqua County 4-H Program. The new facility was built on Jones Road in 1993 and the program moved to this new site in July 1993.
From The Co-Founder, Claudia Monroe:
How it all started: Doesn’t everybody love horses and dream of having one? One day there was an article in the local paper about joining a local 4-H horse club. It said you didn’t need to have a horse to join. So I signed up both of my children, then ages 8 and 11. It was true- you didn’t need to own a horse to join or learn. But if you wanted to ride one- then there was a problem! The leaders were great and found people in the area that had horses that were longtime family pets whose children had gone to college. We were able to go to their house three times per week on school nights for 3-4 hours per night to groom and ride the horses.
And the owners even transported the horses for us for Saturday Clinics. That was great for the kids but a bit taxing on the mom and dad! So, soon we had our own horses! And we learned the hard way, trial and error! Hindsight taught me that 3-4 hours three times per week was a deal! So after about 5 years of 3-4 hours per day five days per week and 16 hours every week-end (we had four horses), we were ready for a break. I was ready to sell the horses to a good home but there was a three to one vote against the idea! My husband read an article about therapeutic horseback riding in my Physical Therapy Magazine. He begged me to find out more about it. I was very reluctant since I couldn’t imagine how this could work into my life. NARHA was listed in the article (North American Riding for the Handicapped Association). So I contacted them and learned of a 5 day seminar on the topic. That was in 1989. At that time I was working in a school district where there were more children needing physical therapy than there were therapists to deliver the service. It was very frustrating.
I went to the seminar. It was on the topic of Hippotherapy and the MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Patient. There were people from all over the US with various stages of MS who had volunteered to be the patients for the course. There were 12 therapists from all over the US and somehow I was one of them! The instruction was intense. The treatments were truly incredible. If I wasn’t there to feel and witness what was happening, I never would have believed it! In four treatment sessions, one hour per day for 4 consecutive days, I witnessed people with MS with various degrees of disability and pain, improve beyond belief.
People who were living with pain at a level of 8-10 on a painscale of 1-10 with 10 being intolerable, has resolution of pain down to 1-2. People who couldn’t walk because of pain and weakness and balance issues, who had been using a wheelchair, were walking with canes. It was real! No tricks or deception! I could only think- if someone who knew already how to walk but couldn’t, because of atrophy/ weakness, pain and fear of falling, could do this well in four treatments, what would this do for my kids with cerebral palsy who were in wheelchairs and never learned how to walk. I was sold! It took more than 3 years to go from that point to opening our center in July of 1993. That’s a whole book! And I could write another one on how much improvement I have seen in the riders.