Children With Disabilities Benefit From Therapeutic Horseback Riding

Therapeutic horseback riding recommended for those with neuromuscular disease, cognitive disabilities and developmental disabilities.

| July/August 2015

Five decades ago, people might not have thought the idea of a child with autism, Down syndrome or sight impairment riding horses was a good idea. Today, it’s quite the contrary. Throughout the world, the healing power of horseback riding has impacted children who initially might have had inner feelings of defeat or doubts about self-worth.

“The beauty and magic of the partnership between a horse and its rider has been celebrated as a symbol of dynamic unity, and as an emotional connection that helps heal and energize,” says Jennifer MaGee, executive director of Heartland Therapeutic Riding (HTR) in Stilwell, Kansas.

Yet, one can only completely understand and comprehend that statement when seeing the magic come to life at the facility.

“At Heartland Therapeutic Riding, we know that a vital sense of freedom is experienced when riding a horse,” MaGee says, and she has witnessed the feeling firsthand.

“Doctors said my son would never walk when he was a baby, but a woman in Dallas insisted that with therapeutic riding he would, and he does. My son is 19 now, walks on his own, admittedly at uneven gaits, but he graduated from high school, and is happy, largely in part to horses,” she says. “So, obviously I am a believer, and the main reason I work here is to help others find out and experience the beauty that can come from therapeutic riding.”

Founded in 1977, and lead by a volunteer board of directors, Heartland Therapeutic Riding is designed to assist individuals with physical or cognitive disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, spinal bifida, autism, developmental delays, Down syndrome, emotional disorders, sight and hearing impairments, and neuromuscular and orthopedic challenges.

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