“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”
The above quote, by Winston Churchill, embodies why therapeutic riding is so beneficial for people struggling with all types of disabilities and illnesses.
“Horses and individuals with special needs have a unique physical and emotional connection. The natural movement of a horse mimics our human gait, helping with muscle memory for those seeking to improve balance, motion or the ability to get up out of that wheel chair and walk. Working on the horse also offers a three dimensional plane of movement which helps with spacial awareness and building core stability and strength. The repetition of movement helps patients get stronger faster. Additionally, research has concluded that special needs individuals can often learn from horses more easily than they can from humans.”
Cindy Ramsey and Chris Hudson both understood that horses were essential in the lives of those with special needs, which is why they decided to open Horses Help, a therapeutic riding center in Arizona. Their passion for helping people with disabilities developed a long time before Horses Help was even a thought; Cindy was a staff member at a local agency for adults that were handicapped and began organizing special activity horseback rides for her clients while she worked there.
One of the clients had such an amazing breakthrough that Cindy and Chris realized that it was time to open up their own company.
“One young man named Joe suffered from Cerebral Palsy and was confined to a wheelchair for most of his life. His body was as rigid as a board and his legs were tied tightly together. Every week we would come out and watch many of his friends ride, always wishing it could be him. One day, with parental permission, staff hoisted him onto a big, solid horse. With his legs gently dropped on each side of the horse’s neck and staff members on both sides and behind to provide him support, he was able to ride and accomplish something he, nor anyone in his family, ever thought would be possible. He couldn’t stay on very long the first time, but with each lesson, his legs stretched with the warm movement of the horse’s shoulders and he was able to sit up taller. Overtime, he developed many independent living skills that he would have never achieved otherwise.”
On a quest to make a difference in the lives of more people, Horses Help was officially born! What started out as a small business, that acquired a permanent home in 1999, has grown into 2,500 volunteers as well as PATH International Certified Instructors and other therapists; Horses Help is now the largest therapeutic riding center in the state of Arizona. This thriving business has over 10,200 equine adaptive actives and therapies each year!
The company has acquired some hands down spectacular horses over the years which is a key reason this program has been so successful. The horses used are specially chosen for the therapeutic riding program; it truly is a calling to be a therapy horse which is why it’s important that theses horses have gentle dispositions and affectionate, social personalities.
Horses Help has plans to keep growing and reaching even more individuals with special needs. I talked to Gregg Goodman, Executive Director of Horses Help, who said, “This year we are moving toward providing additional community based education for CEU and general population. One of the newest pilot programs we will be developing for next year will be a families based program designed to improve communication all while using our horses as teachers and instilling a new cowboys ethics culture.”
Horses Help has been a groundbreaking success and has made a huge impact in the lives of many people and will continue to do so, on an even larger scale, in years to come. In order to grow, volunteers are always needed. If you’re interested in volunteering at Horses Help, there are individual volunteer opportunities or group opportunities. There is also an option to sponsor a horse from the riding program! If you’d like to sponsor a horse, click here.
All images provided by Horses Help.