Special Needs Outreach - Equine Therapeutic Riding
Equine therapy is a method of reaching those with disabilities in a way that touches them physically, emotionally, cognitively and socially. Horses are selected for suitability—which involves being tolerant even if the rider may be terrified and screaming, or happy and flaying uncontrollably. As the students become acquainted with horses and spend time physically riding, their muscle tones and strengths improve, they become physically balanced, they learn to interact socially with the volunteer helpers, and often their verbal skills and overall behavior improve.
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. Psalm 147:10-11 (NIV)
“The Great Adventure” by Steven Curtis Chapman. Used by permission from EMI CMG Publishing.
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Plant Today is dedicated to “serving the underserved through relationships.” One way we do this locally is by reaching out to families with disabilities. Although our society encompasses a large number of those with disabilities, the families affected frequently feel isolated in a world that does not readily accept those who are different. Parents must grapple with a difficult present and an even more uncertain future, while siblings often must learn to cope with misunderstanding from peers and less parental attention. The special needs child or adult faces being shunned, ignored, or awkwardly stared at by others who are uncomfortable encountering a person with disabilities. All face a loss of critical financial resources as income is spent on special treatments and therapies.
Our Special Needs Equine Therapy Outreach
The Plant Today outreach is different from other equine therapeutic programs. Rather than simply providing therapy sessions, we focus on ministering to the entire family. To that end, we do not charge for what we do, but rely entirely upon donations. We offer siblings the opportunity to ride, so they can experience the excitement of horses and have their own equine successes. We strive to support the parents and caregivers through prayer and giving them a small respite while their child is riding. Above all, we seek to model Christ through serving.
The Equine Therapy Concept
Our riders range from those who are slightly autistic to those profoundly affected by autism, those with cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, deafness, visual impairments, emotional disabilities, and attention deficit. The types and severities of disabilities are endless, so each student is viewed as profoundly unique and instructed on an individual basis. While we are first and foremost a ministry, we are also a member of PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International), the international organization for accreditation of equine therapy instructors and riding centers.