Therapy horses guiding children, adults to new benchmarks in Palos Hills

PALOS HILLS, Ill. (WLS) -- A horse therapy foundation in a southern suburb is guiding people to new benchmarks in life.

Horses at the New Beginnings Therapeutic Riding Foundation in Palos Hills help people with special needs and mobility issues.

Sandra Farnick has volunteered at the foundation for the past two years. She said horse therapy is used for people of all ages and abilities.

"It could be the autism spectrum, it could be someone with mobility issues," Farnick said. "We actually have an anxiety group where our participants groom, hand walk and really just bond with our horses."

Last month, the foundation received a new therapy horse, Fahey, to help their therapy patients. The foundation received his as a special donation from the Chicago Police Department.

"Fay, he was a retired police horse. He is going to be assigning our participants, children all the way through adults, who are seeking therapeutic riding," Farnick said.

Therapeutic riding can help people in different ways. Nora Flisk said therapy was what she needed after her husband was killed in the line of duty as a Chicago police officer.

"Unfortunately, we all suffer greatly from PTSD due to our circumstances. I found when I came here I was always so excited to come, and it gave me a great calmness and a great peace," Flisk said. "I really didn't believe there would be anything to help fill that (hole in my heart), but eventually and gradually he did get a special place in my heart, and I in his as well.

Longtime rider Isabelle Walters said riding has helped boost her confidence.

"I am diagnosed with juvenile arthritis as well as Asperger's syndrome. "I've always been a shy kid, I've always had a hard time communicating with people outside of the barn," Waltes said. "When I came here, all of the people were very friendly with the horses with me, and it's changed me."

The foundation continues to use the bond between animal and human to create new beginnings in life.

"I truly believe in the animal human bond, the animals really nurture us. There is a physical aspect to gaining strength, there is an emotional bond," Farnick said. "For any of us that actually experience stress, at one time or another, it is a huge benefit for all of us going forward.
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