If you love someone who has a disability, or you have one yourself, you know the vast amount of trips to the doctor or physical therapists; much waiting, many tests. One therapy that has been declared almost miraculous by participants is therapeutic riding or equine assisted therapy (EAT). This therapy allows people with disabilities to have a gentle riding experience using specialized equipment to meet their specific need.
Founded in 1988, the most established program in the greater Willamette Valley area has been the Adaptive Riding Institute. The group has renamed the organization Horses of Hope: An Equine Therapy Experience.
Executive Director, Teresa Whalen said, “The Board of Directors felt that this new name really represented what we are all about: Hope. We also wanted to clarify the importance of equine therapy in our name.”
The facility, with 24 stalls, indoor/outdoor arenas and viewing areas is located at Stalle di Speranza (Stable of Hope) on 38 acres on Cloverdale Drive in Turner.
“One of the best parts of our campus is the five acre sensory trail,” said Leslie Simpson, Horses of Hope Board Secretary. “It winds through an evergreen forest and up and down hills. There is so much to see, smell, hear, and feel, as we walk through there.”
EAT has been a known therapy for centuries. Ancient Greek literature mentioned the use of horseback riding as therapy. In Scandinavia equestrian therapy was used during an outbreak of polio in 1946. Equestrian riding was offered to wounded soldiers in England during World War I. The British Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) was founded in 1969.
Once accepted the therapy has been recognized as a way to improve physical, emotional, and occupational growth in persons who experience ADHD, anxiety, autism, cerebral palsy, dementia, developmental delay, depression, genetic syndromes, traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, and more.
Whalen said that she has seen miracles happen through the process of recreational therapeutic riding. “People and horses create an amazing bond. Horses are willing and non-judgmental. They naturally respond to rider’s movements and social behaviors. It is a therapy that fosters independence for those living with emotional, behavioral and physical challenges.” She added that she has seen people gain physical strength, balance and mobility after experiencing equine therapy.
Adaptive Riding Institute owns 12 horses, which are all specially trained to work with people having a broad spectrum of disabilities. They currently serve over 90 clients with 75 different diagnoses. The Adaptive Riding Institute (ARI) exists for these very reasons.
Bryan Martz, a Willamette University senior, has been volunteering with the organization and is witness to the miracles that take place.
Says Martz, “I understand the difference that I am making when I go clear brush or clean the facilities. By volunteering, I allow the institutes’ hard-working staff to spend more of their time helping disabled people throughout the area. By taking my fraternity of 25 men out to their facility, we are able to assist with chores that could take a small staff a long time to perform. By helping for three hours, we give the staff more time to continue making an incredible contribution to the Mid-Valley community.”
You can find out how to donate, volunteer or arrange an equine therapy experience at Horses of Hope at www.HorsesofHopeOregon.org or call 503-743-3890