Equine Therapy: A Student’s Experience

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Sadie Connolly (she/her), Journalist

Equine therapy is a commonly used practice in occupational therapy and for people with disabilities. The Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center offers opportunities to individuals with disabilities to do therapeutic riding, and learn about and engage with horses. The CTRC is home to over 30 therapy horses, along with miniature horses and retired horses. Each horse has a barn buddy who sees them on a weekly basis and feeds, grooms and cares for them. 

Horses offer incredible therapy for many reasons. First, they can sense emotions and give direct feedback to the handlers actions. They can sense if someone is angry, anxious, or calm, and respond accordingly. This offers the person with the horse validation of their feelings, and helps them comprehend them. The Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center allows for individuals with disabilities to make these connections with horses and become in touch with another side of themselves. Participants learn to chase their dreams and achieve their goals. Volunteering at the Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center has changed my life for the better. I have gotten to understand an entirely different side of horses, and appreciate therapeutic riding and see the amazing impact it can have on children and adults with disabilities. The CTRC has over 1000 volunteers each year performing all tasks and allowing the facility to run as designed.

 

I started volunteering at the CTRC over the summer and I began by mucking stalls and side walking classes, meaning I would help the rider stay calm and ensure that they stay steady on their horse. Eventually, when the CTRC got a new therapy horse, Dakota, I joined the barn team and began working with him on a weekly basis. The process of working with Dakota has been very rewarding, as it is incredible to see him improve on a weekly basis and become more calm and comfortable. It is fascinating to see the trust form between a horse and their caregiver, and I am truly grateful for the experience to have that. I practice liberty work with him, which encourages his trust and practices proper groundwork while working. The work I perform with Dakota is therapy for him, so that he can continue to provide therapy for the CTRC participants.

This article is dedicated to Dakota, who sadly passed away in early March. Dakota helped so many participants throughout his time at the CTRC, he will be greatly missed.