Horseplay is a new and loving occupation for Stewart and Michael Knight, who live in League City.
The retired couple spends three days each week assisting special-needs children and young adults in the therapeutic riding program at the SoléAna Stables arena at Big Wish Farm in Alvin.
“It’s a remarkable program with an amazing instructor and the children gain so much from this experience,” Stewart Knight said.
“Therapy starts the minute they come in the front gate,” she said. “The entire time they are riding, they use every muscle in their bodies and over time, you see change and growth.”
The equestrian life was central to Stewart’s childhood. She began riding at age 4 and later began showing horses in Charleston, South Carolina, her hometown.
“After we retired, we spent time thinking about what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives; we wanted an opportunity to be useful,” she said.
“After I read about the program, we visited the stables, took the training and fell in love.”
That was two years ago.
Volunteers are a key asset to the therapeutic riding program because every child on horseback must be accompanied by at least three people at all times, said Lauren Delhomme, who works with the program.
“Michael and Stewart are among our most dependable volunteers,” said Delhomme, who nominated the Knights to be Daily News Everyday Heroes.
“They get to know the riders. Michael knows how to get a chuckle from even the most reluctant child, and Stewart gets lots of excited hugs.”
The Knights love to talk about the program and its successes.
“There is this one tiny girl with a rare syndrome, and she would scream whenever she was put on a horse,” she said. Each time it was 10 minutes and no more.
“There was so much pain in her mom’s eyes but she wouldn’t give up. Now that child loves to ride, even trot, and she has gained so much confidence; it’s wonderful to see,” Knight said.
About 30 children currently receive services and many more are on a waiting list, she said.
“The only thing holding them back is a need for more volunteers.”