Riding Horses Used as Animal Therapy

A therapeutic horseback-riding program in Cody,Wyoming is working to help children with disabilities like autism and down-syndrome.

The program, called One Step at a Time, is intended to improve communication skills and anxiety. According to one of the program’s founder’s Lori Rhodes, it all has to do with the horse’s movement (their gait) and how they relate to humans through that. This type of therapy is called equine therapy.

“It’s all about the horse’s gait,” Rhodes says. “Generally, kids with challenges have something different about their gait. Because a horse’s gait is the closest to a human’s, it helps by overlaying the stride pattern and helps the brain work better, especially the part dealing with speech.”

This is not the only horseback-riding therapy program in the country. In Wisconsin, two sisters opened up their own equine therapy center called Flying Horse. Like One Step at a Time, this center is meant to help anyone overcoming a struggle- youth at risk, veterans suffering from PTSD and children with autism.

“It’s amazing how horses can sense what people are feeling,” co-founder Jewel Johns Root said. “The horse really is the therapist.”

Root is a certified riding instructor with a degree in K-3 education. Besides her and her sister, the program has five trained therapists to work with patients and help them cope with their struggles. There are also 10, trained therapy horses.

“They’re so patient and very thoughtful in the way that they let their clients go at their own pace,” said Christin Skolnik, administrator of the La Crosse County Comprehensive Community Services program. “I think they’re really creative in the way that they are able to help people bring about change.”

For more information on equine therapy in New York, read here: http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/2013/11/14/an-autistic-boy-forms-a-special-bond-with-a-horse/

Sources: http://www.postbulletin.com/news/local/therapy-patients-find-comfort-in-the-pasture/article_6807926b-9638-5927-9ffb-ce4b6e37c572.html