Trail rides, therapy part of equesterian enterprises in Coupeville

Trail rides and therapy part of equesterian enterprises

Aida Daly couldn’t have been happier to be horsing around Whidbey on her birthday.

Her grandmother, Gretchen Wood, of Coupeville, treated her to a Stride ’N Glide ride atop a horse named Tango.

“That’s a great choice,” said Daly’s mother, Amy Wood, “because she loves to dance.”

The little girl turned 8, just old enough to saddle up and trot in the woods accompanied by her mother, brother Wyeth and two guides.

“Congratulations, you’re just old enough,” said Sue Landusky, owner of the trail-riding business that set up on the corner of Highway 20 and Race Road last summer.

“Younger kids have to stay in the corral and be led around in circles. But it makes them happy and makes for great photos.”

Landusky said her love affair with horses started at age 3. “They put me on a pony and that was it. After that, I scooped a lot of poop to learn a lot about horses.”

Her service, which charges $25 for a half-hour trail ride, had a busy summer as did Coupeville-based Equestrian Crossings and Whidbey Equestrian Center.

“Word is getting out that I’m here,” Landusky said, who lives on six acres that include her makeshift small roadside corral.

Her seven tall Tennessee Walkers and black-and-white spotted donkey named Marvel the Magnificent are tough to miss when she sets up on weekends. Week day rides can also be scheduled.

“I’m so glad this is here,” Amy Wood said Thursday as she saddled up on Belle, a one-eyed horse who suffered a bad infection. Many of Landusky’s horses have been neglected and rejected by former owners.

“It’s tough to find a place to ride near Seattle that isn’t booked months in advance.”

This spring, Whidbey Equestrian Center, located south of WhidbeyHealth Medical Center, became a base for weekly Equestrian Crossings operations. The non-profit organization was launched in 2009 and is nationally certified to provide therapeutic horsemanship activities to children and adults.

It worked out a partnership with the center. In exchange for use of its covered arena once a week, it supplied volunteers to help with the center’s summer-long busy schedule of dressage competitions.

Every Wednesday, Judy Smith and her husband Doug drive in from Shoreline for 90 minutes of activity. The long weekly trip is worth it, said Doug Smith, who takes time off from his duties as a Shoreline District Court judge.

“She was chomping at the bit, so to speak, to be cleared medically to do this,” he said as Judy passed by atop a Norwegian Fjord horse named Bingsa.

“Judy rode in high school but that’s a long time ago.”

Judy Smith suffered a stroke about two-and-a-half years ago. Motor control on her left side was affected, leaving her with constant spasms in her legs and hands but it spared her speech, he said.

She wears a helmet and a belt around her waist so volunteers known as side walkers can stabilize her.

As her horse is slowly led around the arena, instructor Anne Luick calls out, “When you turn, don’t lean. Sit up straight.”

Riding a horse helps people suffering from nerve damage, explained Gail Correll, the group’s volunteer coordinator.

“Even for riders who are paralyzed the movement is stimulating the spine, and the brain recognizes the movement,” she said.

After being carefully dismounted from Bingsa, Smith stood at her walker, regained her balance and moved her left leg better than when she arrived.

“It does help,” she said afterward. “One time Anne told me to sit up straight and tuck my buns under and I had no concept because I didn’t have the nerve connection to do that.

“Three minutes later, she said, ‘You’re two inches taller. You did it.’”

After the ride comes carrot time. Smith holds a black bucket filled with small carrots and an apple. She nuzzles Bingsa’s long nose as the horse munches and munches and munches.

“Afterward I’m so relaxed I want to fall asleep,” she admitted. “But this is my favorite part.”

Judy Smith nuzzles with her horse after a session at Equestrian Crossings, a program providing therapeutic horsemanship. Smith travels from Seattle every Wednesday to ride with the Coupeville program. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Judy Smith is surrounded by volunteers with Equestrain Crossings while riding in the arena at Whidbey Equestrian Center. Greg Olde and Kellie Holden work as side walkers while Katie Locke (far right) leads the horse. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

More in Life

Mucking about for clams

‘Digging for Dinner’ a popular Sound Water activity

Scorch is a play about gender identification showing at Outcast’s black box theater on the Island County fairgrounds June 13-17. It’s a one-person play, performed by Carmen Berkeley. Director and co-producer Ty Molbak went to middle school in Langley was was active in Whidbey Children’s Theater. Both will be seniors at Rutgers University in the fall. One scene in the play “Scorch” portrays the main character looking into mirrors and wondering what others see.
‘Scorch’ looks at first love and ‘gender fraud’

Irish play revolves around one character’s confusion

Whidbey Island Garden Tour highlights five homes

Tickets still available for Saturday event

Jordan Shelley, 18, stands outside his home in Greenbank. He recently received the Sydney S. McIntyre Jr Scholarship from Skagit Valley College to go toward his tuition at the University of Washington. Shelley will pursue his childhood dream of becoming a doctor. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group
SVC grad earns full 2-year scholarship to UW

A lot has changed since Jordan Shelley was 7 years old and… Continue reading

Couple creates Whidbey’s first commercial cidery

Driftwood Hard Cider taps into growing market

‘Slowgirl’ explores the human condition in intimate setting

Even with significant professional credentials, the latest offering from Whidbey’s Outcast Theatre… Continue reading

Homegrown ‘Frijole Friday’

Fundraiser features student crops, cooking

Scott Swenson, a National Park Service carpenter, puts the final pieces in on a ramp on the newly restored Pratt Sheep Barn. The 1930s barn will serve as a classroom one it officially opens in July. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group
Historic sheep barn repurposed

Tucked away on the Pratt Loop Trail, a formerly dilapidated 1930s sheep… Continue reading

‘Art with a Message’

Students worldview a kaleidoscope of visions

Hometown Hero: Lewis Pope

Once every year a South Whidbey senior is chosen by the South… Continue reading

Shhh…it’s a surprise party for old-timer Bill Lanning

Friends, customers invited to celebrate former owner of Bill’s Feed Tack

New look for familiar frozen treat

Whidbey Island Ice Cream gets a modern makeover