STAR seeks volunteers

West Knox Optimist Club continues to work with Shangri-La The-rapeutic Academy of Riding, a group that brings people living with physical, mental, behavioral and social is-sues face-to-face with horses and sometimes donkeys.

“It’s a multifaceted equine experience, partnering people with special challenges with a horse for amazing outcomes,” Lynn Petr, STAR founder, executive director and program coordinator, said at a West Knoxville Optimist Club meeting Thursday, July 14.

Dan Green, president of West Knoxville Optimist Club, said his club had contributed to STAR for roughly 20 years.

“It just does so much good for all the community,” he said.

The program volunteers work with children or adults with disabilities, veterans with physical or emotional challenges, Alzheimer’s and memory care units and at-risk youths.

“It’s not just riding. Some of the stuff takes place on the ground,” Petr said.

She encouraged Farragut residents to participate in two volunteer events: A junior training for ages 10 through 12, Wednesday Aug. 17, and regular training for ages 13 and older on Saturday, Aug. 20.

“We always need more volunteers,” she said.

A part of STAR participants’ experience is getting to know the horses as living breathing beings and communicating with them in terms they understand. She said horses interact in different ways from hu-mans.

“Horses don’t speak so everything is body language … They read your body and they read your body language,” she said

“You can use that when you’re working with people,” she said. She said body language is important with people too.

Therapeutic riding was another activity in which STAR was involved.

“We’re using the movement of the horse to stimulate their body and their muscles,” she said.

Petr read a letter from a veteran who had worked with the program.

“Mindfulness in motion,” she said, reading the veteran’s description of working with a horse.

Petr said STAR works with both children and adults. Some programs involve riding while others involve other types of therapeutic experiences with horses and donkeys.

She encouraged Farragut residents to participate in two volunteer training events in August. Junior training, for volunteers ages 10 through 12, will be Wednesday Aug. 17. Regular training for volunteers ages 13 and older will be Aug. 20.

“We always need more volunteers,” she said.

STAR’s current facility is in Loudon County, but Petr said the organization had also recently acquired new land for a facility in Knox County.