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Record Setting Attendance at NARHA Conference at St. Andrews

LAURINBURG, N.C. - “This is the largest conference we’ve ever had, not just in Region 3 but across the country. It’s because of Pebbles Turbeville and St. Andrews.”

These words spoken by Sheila K. Dietrich, executive director of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA), echoed statements heard throughout the weekend-long regional conference held on the St. Andrews Presbyterian College campus.

“We were told to plan for 120, but we ended up with more than 200 registered from 13 states,” said Turbeville, director of the college’s therapeutic horsemanship program and member of the NARHA board of directors. “I asked attendees why they came and the overwhelming response was the topics available for continuing education credit.”

The original conference schedule had to be modified to include multiple sessions for the offered topics to accommodate interest. Topics that garnered the highest registration included autism, non-verbal communication, exercises for TH horses, vaulting, natural horsemanship and equine-assisted activities for those wounded in military service.

“As a professor at an educational institution, Pebbles knows how to put together an educational conference,” Dietrich said. “St. Andrews is a facility that gets therapeutic riding and people want to see what’s going on here.”

Conference attendees can earn up to 10 hours of continuing education credit of the 20 credits needed annually to keep certification current. According to NARHA Region 3 representative Teressa Tucker, continuing education is only part of the draw.

“There is such a great support system and networking among the members that we help each other grow,” said Tucker, who runs the Kids Rein program in Charlotte, N.C. “The members are all different, but they are all doing equine assisted activities. We will be able to enrich our programs because we’re getting everybody’s heads together to create different ideas within the NARHA standards. There’s nothing better than fresh ideas. Networking like this – you just can’t buy it.”

Dietrich agrees, “We have new folks and experienced folks in attendance so many will end up with mentors. Mentoring has always gone on informally in NARHA, but we have made mentoring a big focus with a formal program developed for both the centers and individuals.”

NARHA is a growing organization with 719 accredited centers that serve more than 38,000 participants annually. There are close to 3,000 certified instructors assisted by 28,000 volunteers.

“We are now an international organization,” Dietrich said. “We’ve always had a strong relationship with Canada and NARHA has centers there, but we now have centers in Spain, Italy, Israel and Uruguay. Our first premier certified center is just outside Barcelona, Spain. We have certified instructors worldwide, with our largest concentration of certified instructors outside the United States in Japan.”

Dietrich sees the energy and eagerness of those who attended the conference as an indication of the direction NARHA is going.

“NARHA is heading in a good direction and Pebbles is an example of the level of expertise and commitment that will take us to the next level,” she said.

St. Andrews Presbyterian College is a four-year liberal arts and sciences college situated on 600 acres around a 70-acre lake in the Sandhills region of North Carolina. Long known for its innovation and academic excellence, the college boasts an unparalleled interdisciplinary curriculum, a study abroad program on three continents, a multidisciplinary science lab the size of an indoor arena, the first undergraduate college press in the country, the first four-year degree in therapeutic horsemanship and equine business management, and an award-winning bagpipe band. Students enrolled at St. Andrews come from 42 states and 11 countries.

Further information may be obtained by visiting the college's website http://www.sapc.edu or calling admissions at 800-763-0198 sending an e-mail to admissions@sapc.edu.

The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, located in Denver, Colorado, was formed in 1969 to promote equine assisted activities for individuals with special needs. At over 700 member centers, more than 38,000 children and adults find a sense of independence through involvement with horses. More than 29,000 volunteers, 2600 instructors, 5,800 therapy horses, and thousands of contributors from all over the world are helping people at NARHA centers. For more information about NARHA visit http://www.narha.org or call 800-369-RIDE.


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