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Making strides: Horse therapy helps kids and adults with disabilities thrive

Jay working with his horse Pete.png
Posted at 7:06 AM, Sep 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-23 18:16:03-04

ZIONSVILLE — Horses have been used as a tool for a long time, from a means of transportation to a means of hauling goods.

They can also be used as a therapy tool. Whether it's mentally or physically a horse can make a big difference in the life of someone with disabilities.

At Morning Dove Therapeutic Riding Center, they work with kids and adults with challenges — and horses are their No. 1 tools.

We met Jay at Morning Dove Theraputic Riding Center. He’s been riding here for almost 20 years.

Jay has cerebral palsy, and riding his horse, Pete, helps him in many ways.

“He works on his core strength, his balance, stretch. He not only gets a stretch when they do arm exercises, but depending on how wide the horse is, he can get a stretch through here, which is good for him," said Jay's mom, Mary Jane Perkins. "If he didn't have this, he would definitely decline in all areas. It helps him cognitively, fine motor and gross motor.”

Perkins said the best part is he doesn’t think of it as therapy.

“He likes the instructors and all of the people that work with him, and he loves his horse Pete and so he sees this as coming out and having a good time and he's getting a benefit without really knowing,” Perkins said.

His instructor, Elizabeth Sadler, said the best part of her job is seeing the strides her clients make during therapy.

“It's really cool to see a kiddo start from not knowing how to stop their horse, not knowing how to steer their horse, to then moving on and figuring out those skills, figuring out that coordination, and then hopefully progressing even more and more where they could be more independent with their riding,” Sadler said.

Sadler said she got into this field because it combines two of her passions.

“I have a heart for helping kiddos with horses," Sadler said. "Horses have been a part of my life for years and years and years, so to be able to combine helping individuals with all sorts of disabilities and put them on a horse and see that horse human connection is huge.”

Working you for you, we found there are tons of opportunities for you to get involved. You can sign up as volunteer at dozens of equine therapy places across the state, including Morning Dove.

If you want to get certified to be an instructor, you can get a certification online plus we found St. Mary of the Woods college offers a minor in equine therapy.

There are lots of benefits to equine lead therapy including for those dealing with brain injuries, autism, attention deficit disorder, emotional disabilities and much more.

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