Charity of the Week: Horses for Healing

By Anthony D. Rabak
In 2000, while Valerie and I were living in Elk Grove, I finally got a confirmed name for the strange neurological sensations I’d been experiencing: RRMS, a disorder called Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.  I was looking for ways to deal with my new medical acquisition and I learned about equine therapy. Turns out, horse riding is something beneficial when dealing with a disability. Enjoyable therapy? I had to learn more. Why a horse? These majestic creatures, being a dynamic living animal, provide a unique multi-sensory means of therapy: the shape of their backs provides a perfect platform. Their pelvis is like ours in that it has a three-dimensional movement (up, down, and side to side). Their gait simulates our walking and the repeating motion helps a rider improve muscle tone, strength, posture, flexibility and balance. A horse’s natural rhythm gently moves muscles and the spine. Sitting on a horse can stretch hip joints reducing pain and spasticity in the legs. Many restricted to wheelchairs, braces or crutches can feel mobile again when riding a horse. On the outside you may just see a body riding a horse, inside it’s actually a spirit soaring.
Besides physical benefit, horse riding improves social and communication skills, self-esteem, self-awareness and self-achievement. I weigh 115 pounds with two weak legs, yet I successfully control an 1100 pound animal with four strong ones.  An empowering, goal-oriented and enjoyable therapy. Trained instructors needed volunteers and, of course, the horses all make this possible.
After diagnosis, I found a local program, but they had a long waiting list. It was two years before I received my call offering a riding spot. Unfortunately, it came when packing the last boxes to start our new life in Grass Valley. Once we moved, I was  blessed to find an organization that answered my prayers to ride: Horses for Healing. I rode a couple of years before I had a paralyzing set-back that kept me out of the saddle for a year. Fortunately, with physical therapy and faith, I regained my ability to walk with crutches. Over the last 2 years, I’m riding tall again! (When you’re under 5’2”, that’s a big thing!)
Some believe angels have two wings, I’ve learned that some have four legs!
“There’s something about the outside of a horse that’s is good for the inside of a man.”
Teddy Roosevelt
This is especially true of the benefits of therapeutic riding for children and adults with special needs, the disabled, the autistic, as well as troubled teens.

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