Miranda Rolin, founder of CAYR Recreation in Kalkaska, has dealt with more than her share of challenges in her 34 years. In 2011 she was diagnosed with melanoma, which she conquered completely by 2013. In 2014 she required a tubal ligation and uterine ablation. Four years later, she developed acute appendicitis and had to have an appendectomy. And throughout her life, she has dealt with a huge range of seemingly disconnected physical and emotional symptoms, spanning chronic fatigue, sensory processing disorder, disc degeneration, social and generalized anxiety disorders, depression, and many more, which were finally all explained by a diagnosis of Asperger’s in 2018.
“I’ve got what I deemed to be ‘Good Bad Luck’,” she says. But her personal philosophy is “that sometimes one of the main reasons we experience and survive a circumstance is simply to be able to pay forward the knowledge later on, or to help someone else make it through.”
Paying forward the lessons born of her experiences is exactly what Miranda is doing with CAYR, an equine therapy ranch devoted to helping people through a range of challenges, both physical and emotional. Though her targeted clientele are those afflicted with traumatic brain injuries, she says anyone and everyone is welcome, from beginning to advanced riders. In developing her program, she sought to create an environment “dedicated not only to the rider, but total inclusion and acceptance of their families as well. No judgments, and where quirks and diverse needs were welcome and embraced. A place where everyone could truly come as they were.”
CAYR (which stands for “Come As You Are Recreation”) customizes therapy according to each client’s needs. Physical benefits can include strength building, muscle control, balance, listening skills, decision making, and verbalization, among many others. Emotionally, working with horses can help with working through grief, fear, anxiety, low self esteem, and more.
“Those that struggle with social encounters are put at ease by the lack of judgment and the amount of acceptance a horse is able to give,” Miranda says. “People who are shy or timid are able to grow courage because of the level of assertion it takes to ride.”
Miranda has extensive experience with horses, having shown since the age of 8. She began teaching others how to show when she was about 15. To date, she has ridden or trained more than 100 horses, and says, “I like to think that my specialty is in training and providing safe and consistent horses.” She has worked riders who have quadriplegia, brain injuries, speech impairments, Down Syndrome, cancer, spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, hypermobility, anxiety, and depression, among other challenges. She is also certified through PATH Intl. as a therapeutic riding instructor and through NPTA as a personal trainer.
“There is something about the outside of a horse that is genuinely good for the inside of a person,” Miranda says.
The facility itself is “its own sliver of paradise,” she says, with an outdoor riding arena, 33 large box stalls, several horse safe pastures, and two separate barns attached to an indoor riding arena, which are kept at a minimal temperature of 60 degrees year-round—a key benefit in changeable Michigan weather. The facility also includes trails, buffalo, adaptive tack and equipment, boarding, and horse training for both riding and driving horses.