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Group Brings Wheelchair-Bound Campers Out To The Wild
It’s not uncommon to see Percheron horses pulling a wagon filled with people for a ride at events across the U.S. In California, Access Adventure takes it up a notch. The nonprofit group gives people with disabilities the opportunity to take horse and wagon camping trips “on the edge of the wilderness,” says Michael Muir, founder and director of the group. In addition, he teaches people with disabilities how to drive teams of horses.
  “We have a unique niche to provide meaningful therapy and have some fun to improve the quality of lives,” he says.
  Muir personally appreciates the value of the program. He grew up riding horses and competing though he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 15. When riding became dangerous he discovered driving, won medals competing in international competitions and has been passing on that passion since. After retiring as president of the United States Driving for the Disabled organization, he moved back to his home state of California. He heard about the 2,070-acre Rush Ranch, owned by the Solano Land Trust, which was underused and in need of a caretaker.
  Muir – the great-grandson of Sierra Club founder John Muir – offered caretaking services and much more. In 2005 he founded Access Adventure, and created programs to bring volunteers, horses and people to the ranch.
  “We are advocates for preserving open space land and access. We are the bridge for people to get into nature, which is important because people in wheelchairs often don’t have that access,” he explains. “Our doors are wide open for not just people in wheelchairs, but also for learning disabled children and older folks that can’t climb in wagons.”
  Specialized Thornlea carriages, designed by Jerry Garner, hold 12 people or 5 wheelchairs secured safely with a special lockdown system. Garner also created a mechanical lift to give easy access to people in heavy power chairs. That allows people and the family/caregivers to have the opportunity to go on adventures they wouldn’t have otherwise and to challenge their limits, Muir says.
  As an example, he cites trips he has organized for people who are blind.
  “It’s interesting, because most of us see it as a visual experience,” he says. “The experience is multisensory beyond vision. They feel the wind, hear the horses. I do an ongoing narrative of what I’m seeing.”
  He’s witnessed the benefits of challenging people. Through his driver training program, two people who are quadriplegic have excelled in competitions.
  From training and driving clinics to presentations for schools and organizations to camping trips and long-distance caravans, Access Adventure is open year round with volunteer help and funding.
  “We are known for our long distance journeys,” Muir notes. In 2001, he led a 10-month, 3,000-mile “Journey across America” with an international group of people with disabilities in wagons pulled by horses. He’s led groups overseas and followed the 1,000-mile trail his great-grandfather John Muir walked. Muir’s next 2,500-mile caravan is set to begin Nov. 1 in California and end in Weirsdale, Fla. The organization’s website includes dates scheduled for recruitment and candidate training for Paralympics equestrian sports along the route.
  “This year we want to expand our veterans’ program, especially for those younger veterans just returning from the Middle East,” Muir says.
  For more information about events or how to volunteer or contribute, check out the Access Adventure website.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Michael Muir, Rush Ranch, Grizzly Island Rd., Suisun City, Calif. 94585 (ph 707 999-1419; accessadventure@yahoo.com; www.access-adventure.org).

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2014 - Volume #38, Issue #5