Horses help mentally and physically disabled individuals gain confidence, increase mobility, improve muscle tone and balance, improve self esteem and have fun while learning basic horsemanship skills.
Matthew Merryman is a nine year old boy with disabilities secondary to brain cancer treatment. On Saturday morning's, our whole family heads to "The Farm", and Matthew rides Jitterbug, or "Jit", as we call her, one of the Program ponies. What a great match, as they both have very big personalities! One particular issue that led us to 4HTRP is Dystonia, a movement disorder that causes your muscles to contract involuntarily. Cor (one of the Farm owners, 100% committed volunteer, and adopted uncle to every kid there), helps Matthew step over, onto Jitterbug. Matthew has two side-walkers, again volunteers. There is also a volunteer who leads each horse. Matthew and the other rider's are encouraged to direct the horse as much as their abilities allow. This includes the vocal command of "walk on," We were literally blown away after the first session when we realized that the instructor, as well as the physical therapist in the ring with the rider's knew so much about Matthew, and already had a detailed plan in place for him. Matthew and the other riders are each given instructions throughout their time in the ring. This includes everything from walking in the circle of the ring, trotting, and performing different activities at different stations such as shooting a ball into a basket, reaching for items, doing math, practicing letters or reading depending on ability, working with colors, sensory-work, putting items into things, and more. Watching Matthew come off of Jitterbug each Saturday and take full, assisted steps down the ramp has proven the effectiveness of the program, and given us hope of new, holistic improvements for our special child.