For two years, people with developmental and physical disabilities have been able to enjoy therapeutic activities in nature at Humble Ranch Education and Therapy Center.
But with the introduction of the new all-terrain wheelchair, many of those with disabilities who couldn't walk down to the Yampa River or take walks in the meadows now have access to all of Humble Ranch's activities.
Many clients of Humble Ranch include Horizons Specialized Services clients.
Horizons provides support for children with developmental delays and individuals with developmental disabilities in five Northwest Colorado counties. Many Horizons clients visit Humble Ranch to experience natural therapies.
Ginny Cannon, Routt County adult community coordinator at Horizons, said she thinks about five Horizons clients will benefit from the wheelchair.
Last winter a Horizon's woman couldn't participate in Yampatika's nature snowshoe walk because she was restricted to a conventional wheelchair.
"Now this individual will be able to fully participate because the wheelchair goes through the snow," Cannon said. "We're definitely looking forward to it."
Many Horizons clients attend the ranch on a weekly basis for special events and others visit for Equine Assisted Therapy, the use of a horse's multi-dimensional movement.
Humble Ranch obtained the wheelchair for $2,500 through grant money from Colorado Rural Health Center and local support from Routt County United Way, Wal-Mart and Weston Oil.
Humble Ranch director Cheri Trousil said Colorado Rural Health Center only would grant the money if Humble Ranch found a way to match the health center 50/50.
Mary Anderson, Trousil's assistant, sent out about 10 to 15 letters to local businesses to collect funds for the wheelchair. The three local businesses matched the Rural Health Center $1,250 because there was no room in the Humble Ranch budget for this type of wheelchair.
"They were happy to fund the wheelchair and have the project completed," Trousil said.
Because Humble Ranch's objective is to offer therapy for people with special needs through horses and the natural environment, an all-terrain wheelchair would give accessibility to all clients.
Those who are wheelchair bound or even seniors who can't walk a far distance can have access to the river, the riding arena and the meadows on the teal-colored wheelchair with large rubber tires, Trousil said.
Trousil said Humble Ranch does not intend to purchase another wheelchair in the future but it is available for the community to use.
"If anyone would like to use (the wheelchair) for the day trip, it's available. It makes Humble Ranch more accessible because the community bought it," Trousil said.
The all-terrain wheelchair not only can be pushed through the snow but also in muddy conditions or terrain containing gravel and sand.
One of Humble Ranch's goals is for their clients to have access to the Yampa River and being restricted to a conventional wheelchair is too difficult for those pushing as well as those riding.
Cannon said it's helpful that Humble Ranch has an accessible trail for the disabled down to the Yampa River and having the all-terrain wheelchair will only help those who could not see the river before.
Humble Ranch is not open to the public but is available for community groups to schedule retreats and special outings.
Those who need wheelchair assistance also will be able to witness therapy riding at Humble Ranch's riding arena because the all-terrain wheelchair can transport them out to those grounds.
The Equine Assisted Therapy is for people with physical challenges such as low muscle tone or cerebral palsy that find working with horses to be fun but challenging and strengthening at the same time.
Equine Assisted Therapy exercises include rotating on the horse to achieve balance and reaching to touch a horse's ears to find a good stretch.
Trousil also said when a person is sitting atop a horse, the horse creates a movement when it walks that is identical to the movement of a person walking.
Trousil said Humble Ranch is not teaching people how to ride a horse but how to use a horse with the greatest efficiency to alleviate some of their disability.
"We really try to use the outdoor environment rather than a traditional clinical setting," Anderson said.
Although Humble Ranch has not planned on buying another all-terrain wheelchair, Anderson said it is planning to expand the riding program.
Humble Ranch also provides therapy for people with developmental delays or sensory integration difficulties.
Some of this therapy includes touching and hearing things that are unfamiliar to clients in order to make them comfortable.
"What a better place to work than the natural environment rather than a controlled environment," Anderson said.
Humble Ranch provides occupational, speech and physical therapists. Typically, there are three volunteers for every client at the ranch.