A little guy is about to receive a big honor from the Banbury Cross Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Metamora Township.
Jackson Picklo, 5, of Rochester Hills, has been named this year’s Star Student Rider after only being there for about a year.
“Jackson is just always thrilled to be here,” said Banbury Cross Executive Director Jessica Moore. “He loves to ride. He’s grown quite a bit, not only as a rider, but confidence-wise. He’s grown
slow him down.
His “outgoing” personality coupled with his “great sense of humor” have made Jackson quite the popular fella around the barn, according to Moore.
“The volunteers fight over who gets to work with him,” she said. “He’s just so much fun.”
Jackson will be honored during the 26th Annual Derby Day Celebration on Saturday, May 7 at the center, located at 1223 Brauer Rd. The fun begins at 5 p.m.
The upscale event is a fund-raiser for Banbury Cross, which utilizes horseback riding to help students with physical and cognitive disabilities grow emotionally and socially while improving their overall physical fitness.
Students come from all over. Many are from the Oxford school district.
“We usually get close to 100 riders a week during the summer,” Moore noted.
For these special students, horseback riding increases self-confidence, builds core strength and muscle tone, improves coordination and balance, provides a calming activity and helps develop a sense of independence.
The popular Derby Day Celebration annually draws a throng of stylishly-dressed ladies and gentlemen who come to enjoy watching the Kentucky Derby and donate generously to help Banbury Cross continue the unique mission it started in 1991.
Last year, 260 people attended and generated more than $100,000 for the center. The cost of caring for Banbury’s 11 horses is more than $30,000 per year.
Attendees will be able to bid on a variety of items in the silent and live auctions, watch the Derby live on a big screen and bet on the race via a 50/50-style raffle. A variety of adult beverages, including the classic mint julep, will be available as well as a delicious buffet dinner.
Guests will also be able to meet the gentle horses, caring instructors and volunteers, and happy riders who make Banbury Cross one big happy family.
Tickets are $100 for general admission, $150 for patrons and $250 for winner’s circle tickets. To purchase them, please visit www.banburycrosstec.org or call (248) 628-7433.
Jackson’s parents, Jenna and Ryan, are absolutely thrilled their son was selected to be this year’s Star Student Rider.
“It’s such an honor,” Jenna said. “They’re such a great group of people.”
Ryan was shocked Jackson was picked because he “didn’t even know they did such a thing,” but he wasn’t surprised because “he leaves such a good impression on everyone he meets.”
Horseback riding is an important part of Jackson’s weekly therapy regimen because it increases his core strength, improves his balance and helps loosen his leg muscles.
Jackson’s form of cerebral palsy (CP) manifests itself as a constant tightness in the muscles of his lower extremities.
“From the waist down, that’s where he struggles,” Ryan said.
The “heat from the horse” and the ability to stretch his legs while in the saddle helps ease this tightness, according to Ryan.
In addition to physical benefits, riding has boosted Jackson’s confidence level.
“He’s more outgoing. He speaks more,” Jenna said. “I think it does a lot for his self-esteem.”
Because of his CP, Jackson cannot walk or run as fast as other kids his age.
But that doesn’t matter at Banbury Cross.
“When he’s on that horse, he feels like he can go anywhere and do anything that he wants, almost like a superhero,” Jenna said.
Ryan likes the fact that Banbury Cross gives Jackson an opportunity to make an “emotional connection” with some animals.
“We don’t have dogs or cats or anything at home,” he explained. “He just loves the horses. He rides Sassy a lot. I think Sassy’s probably his favorite.”
Sassy is a 23-year-old Arabian mare.
Overall, Jenna and Ryan highly recommend Banbury Cross to other parents of special needs children. They simply can’t say enough nice things about the place.
“They’ve just gone above and beyond to make sure that we’re happy and they’re doing everything they can do to help Jackson,” Jenna said.
“It’s so friendly. It really is like a family atmosphere,” Ryan said. “I commend all of (the volunteers and instructors) and we are truly grateful for the experience. Banbury Cross is more rewarding because it doesn’t feel like your typical therapy.”