Horseback riding helps disabled children

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    By Lani Dame

    Horseback riding is more than just an extracurricular activity for people with disabilities.

    It is a therapeutic tool.

    A non-profit organization called Courage Reins offers therapeutic riding and hippotherapy to people of all ages with disabilities, according to a news release.

    Hippotherapy is occupational therapy using the horse as a tool.

    Courage Reins was founded in 1998 to combine the founders” love for horses and children, said Doug Dusenberry, director of Courage Reins.

    “It was a belief that the skill of horseback riding would be beneficial to kids with disabilities for therapy and recreational activity,” Dusenberry said.

    Therapeutic horseback riding and hippotherapy differ from traditional therapy in multiple ways.

    Horseback riding allows the students to interact with a living, reactive animal and motivates them to continue the therapy, Dusenberry said.

    Kristie Aamodt, 19, a freshman from Harrisonburg, Virg., majoring in animal science and zoology, voluntees at Courage Reins and said she notices the effects the horses have on the students.

    “Just being around the animal gives them courage and a boost of self-confidence to actually be able to do something,” she said.

    Courage reigns also offers many service opportunities for those wanting to work with people with disabilities and horses.

    “I wanted to work with people in disabilities and was interested at how they could utilize horse riding with people with disabilities,” said Jessica Odom, 19, a freshman from Federal Way, Wash., majoring in microbiology.

    Odom learned about the program through the Jacobsen Center.

    Since Courage Reins is a non-profit organization, they depend a lot on volunteers. They have a year-round volunteer program with over 350 people involved, Dusenberry said.

    “It”s nice to try the other side to see what it”s like to give back,” Dusenberry said.

    Volunteers can do a variety of tasks from leading the horses to grooming the horses. The organization offers volunteers the opportunity to make their own service schedules.

    Aamodt said she had always been interested in therapeutic riding and had been taking riding lessons since the second grade.

    Courage Reins offered her the perfect opportunity to continue her interest and have a flexible schedule, Aamodt said.

    “It”s very rewarding to see improvement in kids and see how you”re helping their lives,” she said.

    The volunteers also receive inspiration from the students that they help.

    “It helped me see there”s no limit if you”re willing to put effort into it,” Odom said.

    Dusenberry said for those who want to get involved with therapeutic riding, call or e-mail the organization.

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