cover-storyIssue 9

Finding Hope in Oakdale

saddle and boot

by Kimberly Horg

Even as a young girl, Cathy Calvin found peace and happiness in the company of horses. 

Her love for the animals started at the age of three, when she would sneak out of her house to visit a horse named Stormy that her landlords owned and kept next door.

When she was nine, Cathy’s mom died tragically. For the next six years, her father did his best to raise the young girl and her brother, but when she was only 15, he chose to move to Guam and leave both children behind. 

“From there my life spiraled out of control,” Cathy said. “I went through a lot, growing up. To escape the pain, I would ride a horse. The only comfort I had was the time I spent with horses.”

At 17, Cathy managed to scrape together enough money to buy her first horse. But it wasn’t until years later, when she had children of her own who happened to volunteer at a local facility with horses, that Cathy experienced an “aha” moment that helped her connect her tough childhood and her love of horses in the form of equine therapy.

Cathy first started Diamond C Therapeutic Riding Academy in Manteca in 1997, and in 2007 reimagined the Facility as Rosie’s Journey of Hope Therapeutic Riding Facility in Oakdale.

girl with her horsegirl riding a horse

Rosie’s Journey of Hope

The nonprofit program offers horse-riding-based therapies to children and adults with disabilities, including therapeutic horse riding for children and adults living with autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy and other special needs. Foster kids are also included in the program. 

Children from a wide variety of backgrounds participate in the programs at Rosie’s Journey of Hope. While founding the school, Cathy became a registered nurse and now works as a clinical instructor at the facility. The facility follows the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International guidelines and is facilitated by a PATH certified instructor.

According to Cathy, the name Rosies’s Journey of Hope came from a quarterhorse she owned for 18 years who happened to pass away the same year that Cathy opened the facility. “Rosie didn’t act like a horse,” said Cathy. “She was more like a human.” During her lifetime, Rosie helped many children—and Cathy—get through some tough times. Over the last seven years, the facility that bears her name has helped many more. 

“These children have been through so much and the benefits they experience being around the horses has amazing results,” Cathy said.

Kelley Giaramita, R.N, has been on the Board of Directors for Rosie’s Journey of Hope for the past 18 months. “The horse is so much more than a mere ‘vehicle’ to ride,” she said. “Among so many other things, they are a facilitator of learning.”

Last year, Giaramita attended two equine-assisted workshops which helped give her the tools necessary to expand the facility to include a program for healthcare students and professionals.

Giaramita says the equine ‘facilitators’ have a sensitive neurological system that gives feedback to the children with body language—and which is always entirely non-judgmental. According to Giaramita, it’s easier to see the parts of oneself through equine eyes than it is to take criticism from another person.

The facility is designed to instill hope as participants gain confidence. For Cathy, seeing the results the children and adults receive by participating in the program is the most rewarding aspect.  

“My favorite part is seeing a child with Autism who never smiles, smile again,” she said.   

Rosie's Town of Hope signRosie’s Journey of Hope needs people and groups to assist with funding, as well as volunteers to be side-walkers who assist during the therapeutic riding sessions. To volunteer or donate, call 209.534.0885 or email [email protected]

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