Teri and Don Page prepare Special Olympians for competition. They guide specially trained therapy horses to adapt to their riders with special needs. Providing moral support and encouragement, they impact the lives of people—both riders ad families—by volunteering with SIRE Therapeutic Horsemanship.
On most Thursdays, the retired energy industry professionals can be seen around the Hockley location. Pairing up to help the riders, Teri leads, and Don supports as a side walker. “I am very careful trying not to step on her feet as I sidewalk,” Don confessed, with a laugh; they’ve been married 35 years
Twelve years ago, Teri discovered SIRE through her involvement with the Yellow Rose Chapter of the National Charity League when she spent two years volunteering as a side walker. She independently returned to volunteering at SIRE three years ago and has moved into a horse leader role. “The staff likes to challenge volunteers to lead and become more confidant with the horses, too,” she explained. Don joined her 18 months ago, just two weeks after he retired.
Together they have been inspired by riders’ determination and evolving skills and are pleased to have watched them progress. One rider with multiple sclerosis struggled early in her training with the fatigue of a 45-minutes lesson. As a side walker, Don and the other side walker would help support and gently push her legs up on the horse to provide relief during the ride. After a year on horseback and the strengthening exercises SIRE therapists suggested she perform at home, she is able to hold herself up in the saddle and ride almost unassisted. Another woman Teri worked with is blind. “It’s amazing to see her be able to mount her horse and see her ride up and down the hills on the SIRE obstacle course,” Teri said.
For the Love of the People
The Pages agree; they stay so involved because of the people.
“Being a volunteer is so wonderful,” Teri said. “Everyone pitches in to help out, not just to help the riders but each other. We were used to working in the financial and technology fields, and this environment was new to us. Everyone opens their heart. It’s an extremely positive, loving place.”
Don enjoyed the atmosphere so much he decided to volunteer a second day each week to help with riders and simple maintenance projects on the property and buildings. Working with Facility Manager Roy Figueroa, Don (both pictured on the left) reinforced the walkway ramp to the office and repaired the temperamental fluorescent lighting system in the volunteer welcome wagon.
One day he and another volunteer, Mike Lyons, tackled the 12-year-old antiquated and broken fans in the horse stalls. They trekked to the home improvement store, split the cost of 20 new fans and installed one in each of the horse stalls to the relief of the herd and the humans.
Most weeks, Don helps clean up the barn. “I always joke that sweeping the barn—and mucking out the stalls—is my specialty,” he said.
SIRE has become an integral, enriching component of their retirement, the Pages concurred. In addition to spending time with their 3-year-old grandson and fishing and boating, Teri loves crafting, scrapbooking and sewing outfits for the toddler.
They look forward to the Spring semester and helping riders train for the upcoming Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo’s Top Hands and the Special Olympics horse shows.
“I love it out there,” said Don. “I always tell others how nice everyone is at SIRE. One of the main reasons we volunteer is that the SIRE staff, the riders, and the other volunteers are really some of the nicest people we have ever met.”