Denise Herstine, founder and owner of Healing Hooves Therapeutic Riding Center, Inc. in Weirton, West Virginia, fell in love with horses years ago. It wasn’t until around 2000 when she went to the annual Equine Affaire in Columbus Ohio where she was introduced to the budding field of Equine Therapy.
Healing Hooves offers:
Help and healing of the the body mind and soul of physically and emotionally challenged individuals through horseback riding programs and activities.
Equine assisted therapy is often used in the aid of the treatment of people with Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD), autism, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and spina bifida.
With persons not able to communicate verbally, the emotionally and mentally challenged benefit through horseback riding programs by using the horse as an aid to discharge trauma out of their nervous system. Horses do this naturally through rhythmic, repetitive motion which stimulates the participant’s central nervous system, enhancing neuromotor function and sensory processing.
Currently three horses are used at Healing Hooves: a sweet natured Pinto Pony, “14 hand” Haflinger , and a “15 hand” Tennessee Walker.
Each participant requires a physician’s release from their primary physician to ensure that they are physically and mentally capable of successful participation in the program.
Aspen Education Group, a leading national educational and therapeutic program for troubled teens is fully behind the use of equine therapy in its treatment programs:
Research into animal assisted therapy is fairly new. However, even among professionals who believe more research is in order, there’s a general consensus that therapy animals can be a highly beneficial addition to treatment programs for children especially with autism or Asperger’s.
Motor skills are also developed as the child learns to ride, and eventually groom and tack. Equine therapy offers a safe, secure environment where a therapist or other staff person will be close at hand as new skills are learned. These new skills, and the child’s continued improvement upon them, increase her self-confidence, which increases her desire and willingness to learn skills at home and/or at school. Learning is no longer scary, but fun, interesting and rewarding.
As with other types of animal assisted therapy, the introduction of the animal seems to calm and soothe children. The playful nature of animals seems to draw autistic children out of their “shells”. Children who start to isolate themselves have become more open as a result of equine assisted therapy. Often, they begin making eye contact with the animal first, then with other people. Soon after that, the child often becomes more relationally open; again, with the animal first, then with people.
Herstine’s love of horses is evident in her desire to develop Healing Hooves’ potential to help as many children and adults as possible. She hopes to work with schools, therapists, social service agencies and others to receive referrals for participants in her programs.
Herstine is also a member of PATH Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International promoting and certifying equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) for individuals with special needs.
Horses provide unconditional presence and love to people. They can help people to heal and trust again which can flow into their everyday lives.
If you would care to join Healing Hooves’ venture into the world of Equine Therapy, please contact Denise at 304-723-5415 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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