This spring, WindWalkers will reopen its Discovery Trail for equine-assisted sensory learning. The Missouri Heights nonprofit serves people living with a variety of disabilities through therapeutic experiences with horses. The trail began as a small Roaring Fork Leadership project in 2015, but soon evolved into a much bigger project—and is now installed outdoors on 15 acres of the organization’s ranch property.
“The trail is built around awakening the five senses,” says executive director Gabrielle Greeves. “It challenges our participants’ balance, stimulates their senses, and encourages them to become modern day explorers from the backs of their horses.”
Riders wind along the path and engage with various man-made learning elements including nine activity stations, plus natural obstacles like slopes, turns, varied footing in sand or wood chips, and more. Greeves says that the trail helps strengthen clients’ verbalization, listening skills, identification of colors and shapes, decision making skills, and physical capabilities while also having a great time outdoors.
“This translates into deepened community and social skills, and a better understanding of their environment,” she explains. “Some of the activities mimic real-life situations, such as how a four-way intersection works. At the end of the day, participants feel less fearful and more familiar with their surroundings.”
The project was brought to fruition in late 2020 through thousands of volunteer hours, the bulk of which were completed by members of the Glenwood Springs Kiwanis Club. Financial assistance and donated services were provided by Aspen Tree Service, Aspen Skiing Company, Western Slope Aggregate, and other local businesses.
“Many of our clients live in a world of boundaries in their daily lives,” Greeves says. “We help them learn that their limitations will not keep them from being explorers in the world. This type of experience helps take down the barriers to learning, fun, and adventure.”