Using horses to provide treatment for those with physical and developmental disabilities has long been established as a form of therapy, according to Powell River Therapeutic Riding Association volunteer coordinator Dusty Reid, and it is only growing in recognition and popularity.
“It was discovered that sitting on a horse mimicked the movement of walking,” said Reid. “This was such a huge thing for people who were in wheelchairs or using walkers.”
The association has been providing its services to the community since 1991. With eight horses and two instructors, it currently serves nearly 80 local riders.
“We work closely with the school system and provide services from preschool to adult, from three years old to 70-something, “ said Reid.
The program has evolved and so have the participants, according to Reid.
“We have fewer people with physical disabilities and a lot of kids with behavioural, emotional issues," she said, "such as those on the autism spectrum or suffering from anxiety and trauma.”
The calming effects of horses can translate into those feelings in people and the sensitivity, empathy and non-judgement a horse provides transfers to the riders, according to Reid.
“Animals we can get close to are very sensitive," she said. "They provide things that other humans can’t provide.”
The organization provides important therapy in Powell River and relies on volunteers and community support, said association president Nellie Valentine.
“Without the community, we can’t do this, and they’ve been wonderful to us in 2017," said Valentine. "We’re very much looking forward to this new year."
Reid said she believes the city is getting to know the association fairly well, but stresses the value the therapy provides to the greater community is something people should think about.
“We’re not helping just that one person who comes to riding. It’s the whole ripple effect," said Reid. "You make one child more confident or successful and that family has it easier, which translates to a more healthy community.”
Due to the community support and volunteer base, the service is very accessible to people, and only costs $12 per class for adults, added Reid.
Volunteer opportunities with the association are abundant and can vary from working with the riders and horses to getting involved with fundraising, event planning or even sponsoring one of the therapy horses through the Adopt-A-Pony program.
For more information, go to prtherapeuticriding.com.