Exercise science students find their stride, combining passion for horses and healing

Contact: Nicole Leffler

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Sarah Czupski, a Western Michigan University junior in the exercise science program, can regularly be seen cleaning the stables, brushing the horses, or guiding small riding sessions at Augusta’s Cheff Therapeutic Riding Center. 

The center has been changing the lives of individuals who have physical, emotional or cognitive disabilities for more than 50 years. The state-of-the-art facilities are built for year-round use and include industry changing technologies such as the SureHands Lift, which makes mounting more safe and less challenging for clients with limited mobility. 

Sarah Czupski

With her connections through the exercise science program at Western and faculty member Julie Raedy, Czupski has formed a close bond with the horses and staff at the center.

“I’ve always had a passion for horses, so I was really excited to begin volunteering here and learn about horse therapy,” Czupski says.

Staff member and instructor Ashton Maguire explains that the center depends heavily on volunteers like Czupski. With only a small number of staff on hand, it is because of the volunteers that the horses are so well taken care of, and each get to thrive in their environment at the center. 

The partnership with Westerm is particularly special for Maguire as she is an alumna of the University. She explains that her love of horses and her passion for healing has led her on her journey and she finds joy in being able to offer that same unique learning experience to current students.

While the center has been host to many nursing interns and exercise science volunteers, they are excited to be welcoming the first WMU exercise science intern, student Ashley Cherry this month. Cherry and her mentor will be focusing on hippotherapy, a form of physical therapy that uses the horse’s movement as a tool for motor and sensory input.

“A major draw for me in selecting the center was seeing how therapeutic riding gives children the opportunity to strengthen their interpersonal skills, balance and coordination, along with providing them with an environment where they can feel relaxed and have fun,” Cherry states. 

Like Czupski, Cherry first became acquainted with the Cheff Center after volunteering there for service learning hours as part of a professional development in exercise science course at WMU.

The Cheff Therapeutic Riding Center has been changing the lives of individuals who have physical, emotional or cognitive disabilities for more 50 years. Their state-of-the-art facilities are built for year-round use and include industry changing technologies such as the SureHands Lift, which makes mounting more safe and less challenging for clients with limited mobility. 

ABOUT EXERCISE SCIENCE AT WMU

The Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science program has a scientifically-based curriculum which includes coursework in the basic sciences, the physiology and biomechanics of exercise, fitness assessment and exercise testing, exercise prescription and training, behavior modification and the clinical aspects of exercise. The program offers three concentrations: human performance, clinical/pre-professional, and strength and conditioning. Students in the human performance or clinical/pre-professional concentrations are able to earn graduate credits as an undergraduate student as part of the Accelerated Graduate Degree Program (AGDP).

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