Man has known the value of the horse for thousands of years. The horse has been by his side helping him no matter what the task, never letting him down. Once again we ask the horse to work with us, and now more than ever we count on their grace, their strength, and even their emotions to help us heal both physically and mentally. The horse could not be more perfect for this job.
Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT) combines the use of the horse and their surroundings to improve the physical, mental, and behavioral well-being of all people. EAT not only increases strength, flexibility, balance, and fine motor skills for someone with Down syndrome or a traumatic brain injury, but EAT can also help an adolescent learn how to deal with frustration, anger, and low self-esteem. EAT helps people from all walks of life in a wide variety of ways.
GRACE Rides, Inc. is a non-profit 501c3 organization located in Niceville FL that offers EAT for the Okaloosa and Walton county area. GRACE Rides is a North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) member center that adheres to strict rules and regulations to provide the highest professional safety standards possible. Trainers and therapists are specially certified. Volunteers are needed every day for different tasks including assisting the trainers, caring for the horses, cleaning the facilities, and maintaining the buildings and property. Volunteers are essential for a successful program!
The horses at GRACE Rides are specially selected and trained to participate in the EAT program. Each horse is then carefully matched with a therapy participant based on the horses’ size, temperament, and any medical necessities that may be required for each participant. When a person first meets a horse, they must develop a bond of trust. Since a horse can sense our feelings, they react to however we are feeling that day. If a participant is feeling angry and aggressive the day they come to participate in the program, the horse will typically respond with fear and will be uncooperative until the participant resolves his/her emotions.
I have been honored to be a part of the horse world my entire life. When I was a child I learned how important it is to bond with each horse. Each horse speaks in a different way and you just have to be there to listen to them. Now I’m blessed to be working as an instructor with the horses at GRACE Rides to use my lifetime’s work with horses and my knowledge of the human body to help people in any way that I can. Whether I’m teaching a child to brush a horse for the first time; jump a horse for the first time; or even touch a horse for the first time; every step is special in my eyes and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Some of the people we work with have a hard time at physical therapy during the week, but they can’t wait for their session with the horses. Riding is hard work but you would never know it. Hands too tight to hold the reins start loosening up; muscles start stretching out from the warmth of the horse; and because of all the excitement, words start flowing from mouths that typically don’t speak. These truly are small miracles.
The horse is such a large and magnificent creature! I am reminded every day that I am blessed to have horses in my life to share such a beautiful and unconditional love. Thank you to GRACE Rides for allowing me to combine my love for horses and my desire to make a difference in other people’s lives.