BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — Animals are commonly used for therapeutic purposes as they can ease anxiety and provide a source of companionship. However, some animals can also help people with cerebral palsy and similar childhood-onset neurological conditions regain mobility.
“If you’re having some sort of struggle in your life, we’re here to help, and so are the horses– Reggie really wants grass,” said Katie Oakland, the executive director of Therapeutic Riding 4 Heart and Soul.
Reggie is just one of the many horses available for riding therapy at TR 4 Heart and Soul in Bismarck.
According to Oakland, horses have something special.
“What’s really cool about the horse and the human is that our bodies are actually really very similar. A human is pretty vertical, and a horse is horizontal, but our pelvis is designed really similarly. So, when the horse is walking, it’s building those muscles and those core muscles, but it’s also building neuropathways that replicate somebody walking, so their body feels like it’s walking.”
Oakland says they’ve seen many riders with cerebral palsy– and every day, they come to the barn, ready to work hard and accomplish goals with the help of their horse.
Through equine therapy, they experience drastic improvements to their physical strength, their stamina, and their posture. These are improvements that Oakland says lead to so many more benefits and a more independent life.
“We also just love to see when kiddos get off the horse and they’re sitting straighter and they’re stronger, their therapists tell us they’re meeting their goals in PT, their physicians noticed a change, we’re just excited to be a part of the journey.”
While therapeutic riding strengthens riders physically, it also strengthens them mentally and emotionally, too by helping them build friendships. Instructors say that the relationships created through equine therapy make all the difference in the lives of kids with cerebral palsy.
“We have quite a few kiddos that come out and they have CP,” said instructor Mardi Jo Beard. “Just building that friendship with them and building a relationship and getting to watch them build a relationship and a bond with their horse is super awesome too.”
Thanks to CPable, these relationships are made possible for many kids with cerebral palsy.
“There’s so many costs that aren’t covered by insurance, and it’s just really unfortunate if the family isn’t able to do things like TR 4 heart and soul or other adaptive activities, so having CPable in our community really ensures sustainability, for happiness, it gives these families and these kids independence, and it also gives organizations like our own the opportunity to teach kids and to mentor kids to make it more of an inclusive environment.”
If you’d like to help make a difference in the lives of people with mental or physical disorders, you can become a volunteer at Therapeutic Riding 4 Heart and Soul. To find out how, you can click the link here.