By Mary Paine
I’ve posted often about my own horses, which I loved dearly, but today I’d like to post about some very special horses and riders I’ve had the honor to be associated with. My husband and I do fundraising whenever possible for an organization called Equine-Assisted Therapy and I volunteer there when possible. They offer therapeutic riding to persons with physical and metal disabilities. The instructors and volunteers are among the most giving, caring people I have ever met and the horses seem to know the importance of their job.
These instructors and horses guide the students through games and activities designed to help muscles relax and muscle tone improve. I’ve seen riders start where they were bent almost parallel with the horse and after a few months they would be sitting almost upright in the saddle. The look of unconcealed joy in the eyes of these students melts my heart. The simple movement of the horse simulates the motion of our own walking. The feeling of freedom they have on the back of the horse is unparalleled for them.
Besides working on fine and gross motor development and core strength, they work on cognitive and psychosocial factors as well. The instructors go through extensive training. They have great kindness and ingenuity in the way they incorporate therapy into fun games. I’ll never forget my first sight of a horse that had been painted by a very happy little girl. He stood with such dignity while painted an amazing array of fluorescent colors!
The instructors use puzzles, rings, reining, scavenger hunts, beanies on shoes, rings on toes, egg n’ spoon, and an almost endless variety of fun activities, all on horseback. For many of the special needs children in this program, being a horseback rider and bonding with the horses is the highlight of their week.
I am always in awe of the consummate courage of these children and their families and the amazing way they achieve great things every day. If anyone is interested in volunteering or making a donation, their web site is http://www.equine-assistedtherapy.org.
My sincerest admiration goes out to the people and horses of Equine-Assisted Therapy and most of all to the riders. You are all heroes to me.
Here’s a video from the barn and a second from a local television interview about the program.