Family 411: The importance of equine therapy


Thousands of people with special needs across the US are experiencing the benefits of horseback riding.

Equine therapy is being used to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

A strong sense of responsibility.

That's one thing Briana Bernard is developing in this barn.

"It must feel good. Like a back scratcher."

Briana is learning to respect and care for Noofy, the horse she will ride, and to put his needs first.

"Horses are happier when you love them. If they do a good job, they are happy if you say good job and give them a scratch."

Briana's certified riding instructor, Dr. Veronica Lac, says the Physically challenged 9-year-old is improving flexibility, core strength and balance.

There are emotional benefits to therapy with horses.

"Increased self confidence, feeling of being able to be an equal with her peers," said Dr. Lac. "You know, once you are on horseback, everybody can do the same thing."

Two side walkers and a horse leader assist the riders.

"There is always someone next to you who can catch you or stop a horse from doing whatever is scaring you," said Briana.

Briana has hereditary spastic paraplegia.

Her family loves seeing progress as she deals with the rare genetic disorder.

For her, she is getting physical therapy every week but it's not the drudgery of a typical physical therapy lesson," said Briana's mom, Karen.

Briana says when she rides, she gets into the world of the horse and away from medical issues or school drama.

"They can feel like when you are tense, when you are happy and relaxed they can feel it."

Instructors say riders find strength, courage and friendship.

"When you see the kids loving on the horses and they turn in and kind of nuzzle back at them."

Instructors say they are also having success helping people with autism learn skills on horseback.

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