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Why Riding Horses Is Therapeutic for My Disability

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I am diagnosed with epilepsy and also a speech and learning disability. When I was younger I lived in Milwaukee, WI, and did therapy — PT (physical therapy) and OT (occupational therapy) with my therapist and my closest best friend. My therapist mentioned horseback riding to my mom as a way to do physical therapy and occupational therapy. My mom and I were thrilled that I could try something new for me that was different than the therapy found in doctors’ offices. The place I went to was fun, helpful and enjoyable for me.

I moved to Arizona in 2014 with my family when I was entering eighth grade. When I was in high school I couldn’t find clubs/activities that would interest me and at the same time be accommodating. I started to do horse lessons after school because that was the only activity I thought I would want to do and that makes me feel confident about myself with my disability. When I am riding, I don’t feel like I’m hiding anymore. I can be myself.

I started to ride Cami first when I came to Arizona. I can be passionate about horse riding, it’s calming for me, and it also relaxes my whole body and my mind. Right now I am working with Charlie, my favorite horse. He is fun to be with. Just like friends, horses can be good listeners and not so good listeners. They can also be stubborn at times. Sometimes it’s because they are hungry. Most of the time, we both work hard to communicate in and out of the arena. We listen to each other and there is a bond between me and my horse that no one can take away.

I also participate in horse shows for Special Olympics. It is something I love and appreciate doing. I have fun in the horse shows because they are always a learning experience for me.

Here is what my mom wrote about the time I spent with the horses.

From Kathryn’s Family

This was Kathryn’s first year with LifeStriders. Kathryn made great progress throughout the riding session on and off the horses. First and foremost, horse therapy has helped Kathryn physically. She gained the necessary core muscle strength just from riding to be able to ride her bike without training wheels. This was a huge accomplishment for Kathryn. Not only did she gain the physical ability to ride the bike but her confidence increased exponentially. Between the confidence gained from riding the horses, the body awareness, and the increased physical strength Kathryn now has, she has been able to “graduate” from physical therapy at school.

Besides the physical part of horse therapy, Kathryn just enjoys riding horses. She is always smiling as she leaves. When I would see her in her session, I was so proud of how she listened to her teachers and respected her friends and the horses. Kathryn loves her teachers, especially Mr. Jay. She always comments that “he is so funny.” The relationships she has created with the teachers and her new friends give Kathryn increased social awareness. We thank LifeStriders for allowing our daughter to receive therapy services. Our heart goes out to every volunteer who has given their time to support the needs of our daughter and of all the other individuals who are helped by LifeStriders.

Getty image by Standret.

Originally published: December 31, 2020
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