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Families horse around at riding stables

Jordan Claassen, Ms. Ozark and volunteer, escorts Kailynn Moncada, military Family member, as she waves at her friends while riding Charlie’s Fashion while her mother, Justine, walks by her side during a day of horseback riding at the Fort Rucker Riding Stables put on by the child development center May 22. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Jordan Claassen, Ms. Ozark and volunteer, escorts Kailynn Moncada, military Family member, as she waves at her friends while riding Charlie’s Fashion while her mother, Justine, walks by her side during a day of horseback riding at the Fort Rucker Riding Stables put on by the child development center May 22. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: May 29, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 29, 2014) -- Fort Rucker’s Child Development Center is always looking for ways to enrich the lives of the children they look after, and one way they’re doing that is by sharing a love of animals.

Children of the CDC were treated to a day of horseback riding at the Fort Rucker Riding Stables May 22 as the finale of a series of enrichment programs put on by the center, said Sandy Milstead, lead education technician for the part-day preschool program.

“Today was the culmination of our whole year with the part-day preschool program,” she said. “With the preschoolers, we try to do enrichment programs throughout the year with themes, such as the ocean or the rainforest, and for this last one we’re learning about horses.”

Before heading to the riding stables, Milstead and other staff members spent time with the children reading books about horses and talking about riding safety.

“Safety is an important aspect when it comes to dealing with animals, especially large animals like horses,” said the lead education technician. “This event gives these children hands-on learning experience with horses, and it also gives an opportunity to develop a partnership with the community.”

That partnership extends from Fort Rucker’s own riding stables to neighboring communities, from which volunteers like Jordan Claassen, current Ms. Ozark and avid horse rider, donated her time to help with the event by escorting children around on the horses.

The children weren’t the only ones who got to participate in the fun. Parents and Family members were invited to spend time with the children and share in the moment, and Amanda Badgley, Army spouse, was among those who came out to spend the day with her children.

“I think this is awesome,” she said. “I don’t work, so I get to do these things with my children, and it’s fun to be able to experience this with them and be there to support them, and show them that I’m able to be here for them.”

Badgley said that it’s events like this that make her and her Family feel like Fort Rucker really cares about the people in the community.

“We’ve lived at a few different posts before Fort Rucker and we’ve never really experienced anything like this,” said the mother of two. “We’ve never experienced quite as much Family involvement and Family events like here on Fort Rucker, and it’s just really fun to see.”

That Family involvement was an important aspect of the culminating event, said Milstead.

“One main thing we wanted to do was to include the Families because they come from all over the world and we want them to feel at home – that they belong somewhere,” she said. “Growing up in a military Family, I knew what it was like (constantly moving around and having to make new friends), and I can relate to these children and what it felt like to be a part of something like this, so it’s good to be able to give that to these children and their Families.”

Not only does it give the Families a feeling of inclusion, but Milstead feels that the interaction with animals is healthy for children to develop relationships.

“I feel like the interaction creates a bond, and growing up I’ve always had a love for animals, and that’s something I want to share with these children,” she said, adding that although the horses are animals that are capable of love, they should always be treated with respect.

“This is a great chance for these children to create a memory, and by having these children use all of their senses, it makes a better memory for them,” said Milstead. “All of the parents have been wonderful, and the stables here are really nice, and it’s been a great time and place for these children to create new life experiences.”

This article was originally published at http://www.army.mil/article/126972/

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