Horses have long been used in therapy for the disabled. More and more research shows having the disabled work with horses can help them make great gains in communication, strength, balance and bring true joy! Those visiting our corner of the West on guest ranch vacations get to experience the same joy on our guest ranch horses. There is something fulfilling and exciting about bonding with a horse on winding mountain trails! Please read below on how these amazing creatures make a difference in many people’s lives every day with the help of spectacular volunteers:
Time with horses healthful
Personal growth for the disabled
Jette Fowler learned first-hand how difficult horseback riding can be.
After years of paying for lessons for her daughter, the Charleswood resident decided to see what it was all about, taking up the hobby nearly a decade ago. She quickly realized it wasn’t as easy as it looks.
She said riding a horse requires balance, strength and dedication — all reasons why it’s a perfect therapeutic activity for children living with a handicap.
Shortly after she started riding, she learned about Manitoba Riding for the Disabled, and after hearing about what the program did for disabled children, she knew she had to get involved.
A volunteer for the past nine years, Fowler serves as a side-walker, walking alongside the horses to ensure the children don’t fall off. She said she is always amazed to see the changes the 10-week program, which runs twice a year, makes in a child.
“I find it so satisfying to see the benefit these children have from the program,” said Fowler, a retired mechanical technologist, adding she lives with a slight handicap in one of her legs. “Unless you’re really here, you can’t really imagine what it’s like. The development in the child strength-wise and balance-wise is just so satisfying to see.”
She said many of the children are non-verbal, so progress is also made in learning how to communicate. Living with a wide range of disabilities, including cerebral palsy, developmental delays, vision impairment or autism, the kids find unique ways to communicate with the volunteers and the horses.
“Some of the times those children come in and trying to communicate is a challenge. By the end of the session we have a way — by sign language or just facial expressions, we have a way of communicating. These children, although they don’t really know what goes on around them, they know every week, they’re coming to ride the horse. It’s something for them to look forward to. To see the satisfaction in these children’s faces is just totally amazing.”