Horse Therapy giving adults and children with disabilities new opportunities

Therapeutic Horsemanship is helping adults and children with disabilities build confidence and strength.

Therapy horse riders with cognitive and physical disabilities get the chance to build communications skills, socialization skills and physical core strength at Hanson Center in Burr Ridge.

"We set up with the help of each instructor individual goals or ideas of what each rider needs," said Cathy LeBeau, Equestrian Administrator at Ray Graham Associates. "They build a relationship with the other rider or with the volunteer that sidewalks them in the lesson."

Riders as young as four are able to take hold of the reigns as they learn to follow sequential steps and directions as well as build self-esteem.

"There are many different benefits depending on what your diagnosis would be. It's wonderful for your balance so people tend to self-correct their balance so they tend to sit up better that helps their posture. it helps their speech. So when they are sitting up and they are breathing better and their speaking." LeBeau said.

For parents like Christian Schreck, seeing the improvements in his son Arbor year after year is encouraging.

"His ability to do things. He is able to stand up on a horse and ride and walk over obstacles. He can control the horse or he can steer the horse stop the horse and make him go and it helps him tremendously." Schreck said.

Arbor was born with Type 3 Spinal Muscular Atrophy which kept him from doing things many of us take for granted like having the ability to lift his head from lying flat on his back or even sitting up. Now all that has started to change.

"He will take more chances like stepping down on a stair without holding on to anything. Just his whole demeanor has changed," Schreck said. "He can sit up without falling over he's just more stable."

And for new riders like Sarah, just a few months of riding has changed her movement, strength and even the way she can play.

"Yeah I mean the new skill she's develop since she's been here is the ability to slide down a slide you don't think of the core strength for you to maintain that stability going down an incline but she could do that now where she never could before," said Sarah's mom, Jill Zmaczynski.

The Hanson Center also takes part in the Wounded Warrior program and has their own Special Olympics team.

For more information, visit www.raygraham.org.
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