A different kind of horsepower: William’s Walk Trail Ride spreads joy in healing

Right Path Riding Academy a pioneer in Oklahoma for equine-assisted therapy

“We get to see miracles here all the time.”

Joshalyn Ocker, director of the Right Path Riding Academy in Drumright, Oklahoma, can share a multitude of success stories from horseback riding at the Creek County ranch as a means of providing relief for developmental disabilities.

Perhaps most powerful of those stories is her own. Ocker’s son William passed away at the age of eight, but became familiar with the benefits of horseback riding many years prior.

“William had a rare developmental disease that led to his physical therapist suggesting we try therapeutic horseback riding. His lack of muscle tone meant he ‘scissored’ a lot; his legs crossed over when he walked and had difficulty catching himself,” says Joshalyn.

“After 15 minutes on a horse, he didn’t scissor once on the way back to the car. We were sold.”

In 2015, William lost his battle to Arts syndrome, a rare metabolic disorder among many afflictions targeted by Right Path—including Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and autism.

That same year, Joshalyn assumed the position of director at Right Path. In honoring William’s legacy, all costs for program participants were eliminated and the William’s Walk Trail Ride was born.

“We do the trail ride near his birthday – April 8. Right Path is run as a ministry and our only paid staff are the instructors, so the trail ride is an important fundraiser for the therapeutic riding program,” she says.

Since its inception in 1996, Right Path has expanded to offer three horseback riding programs for youth: William’s Walk therapeutic riding, Horse Tales Literacy Project, and Trail Blazers. A fourth program, Hooves on the Ground, assists veterans in coping with PTSD and learning to reintegrate into society.

Enbridge is committed to improving quality of life in the communities near our operations. In 2017, we invested more than $67,000 in community-strengthening initiatives across Oklahoma, and our recent sponsorship of $2,500 for the 2018 William’s Walk Trail Ride supported the overall operations of the therapeutic riding program.

After a semester of riding, Joshalyn says William never scissored again. Developmental improvements like this—previously thought to be impossible—are a common occurrence at Right Path.

“We have teachers who say their students with autism return from the program in a much calmer state. We have parents in our viewing areas crying because they see progress in their children that they never thought they’d see,” says Joshalyn.

With 941 served in 2017, Right Path hopes to expand its veteran facility in the future to allow the opportunity for accommodating more schools.

“It’s definitely a blessing that we get to do this and we love it.”