Steps To Your Dreams: Therapy on four legs

Messenger photo by John Crutchfield Lisa Paugh grooms Yankee, a former show horse, before starting a therapy session which includes riding. Paugh is a long-time patron of the Steps to Your Dreams Foundation.  5K Run/Walk/Ride The Steps To Your Dreams Foundation will hold its annual Run/Walk and Dream Ride on Sept. 27 at Buck Creek State Park in Springfield.   The 5K run/walk/ride starts at 9:30 a.m. Registration starts at 9. The cost to participate is $20 for ages 12 and older or $10 for under 12. The 12-mile ride starts at 9 a.m. with registration at 8:30. The cost to participate is $25. All registrants will receive a t-shirt. Registration will take place at the Hickory Knoll Shelter House. The family-friendly event also will include children’s activities, a health fair, a silent auction and snacks. Go to www.stepstoyourdreams.org to register. For more information, call (937) 717-6741.
Messenger photo by John Crutchfield
Lisa Paugh grooms Yankee, a former show horse, before starting a therapy session which includes riding. Paugh is a long-time patron of the Steps to Your Dreams Foundation.
5K Run/Walk/Ride
The Steps To Your Dreams Foundation will hold its annual Run/Walk and Dream Ride on Sept. 27 at Buck Creek State Park in Springfield.
The 5K run/walk/ride starts at 9:30 a.m. Registration starts at 9. The cost to participate is $20 for ages 12 and older or $10 for under 12. The 12-mile ride starts at 9 a.m. with registration at 8:30. The cost to participate is $25. All registrants will receive a t-shirt. Registration will take place at the Hickory Knoll Shelter House.
The family-friendly event also will include children’s activities, a health fair, a silent auction and snacks.
Go to www.stepstoyourdreams.org to register. For more information, call (937) 717-6741.

(Posted Sept. 9, 2014)

By John Crutchfield, Staff Writer

It may come as a surprise but no hippos are used in hippotherapy.

Hippotherapy refers to the use of horses in a variety of therapeutic activities. Steps To Your Dreams Foundation, located near Harmony and South Charleston, recently expanded its hippotherapy services to include therapeutic riding. Established in 2008 as a not-for-profit organization, Steps To Your Dreams offers physical, occupational and speech therapy using horses as well as more traditional methods.

Therapist Angela Stan explains that the use of horses brings a unique dimension to therapy.

“A horse has a calming effect on the patient. You wouldn’t think a horse could understand people, but they do,” she said. “These horses are empathetic.”

The four therapy horses at Steps To Your Dreams were selected for their gentleness and ability to connect with people.

“The horses understand what the patient needs,” Stan said.

No one breed is better than another, she continued. Kye is a 10-year-old Haflinger cross; Skyla is a 10-year-old paint; Yankee is an 11-year-old quarterhorse and former show horse; and Ebony is a 28-year-old Tennessee walking horse.

“A good therapy horse is of sound mind, doesn’t spook easily, and makes emotional connection with human patients. It is accepting and has a pleasant personality,” Stan said.

Hippotherapy, also referred to as equine therapy, offers opportunities not found in a traditional therapy setting.

For example, “Lying on the back of a horse naturally causes the throat to open making it easier to generate certain sounds,” Stan said.

Arthritis patients benefit from the rhythmic movement of a walking horse. There is a correlation between a horse in motion and the resulting movements of the human body.

“It is like they are made for each other,” Stan said, sharing a quote from Winston Churchill: “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

Therapeutic riding takes the role of horse in therapy to the next logical level.

“You have to have core strength to sit on a horse. Riding builds core strength,” Stan said. “Therapeutic riding is beneficial for people with physical disabilities, emotional, behavioral or social issues.”

Explaining the social benefit, Stan said, “Often, I have people ride in groups of two and three to build social skills.”

Stan starts most sessions with grooming the horse and a talking about safety. After that, the patient’s needs dictate how the session progresses.

Some patients are taught how to saddle the horse. Western saddles are used because they are more enclosed, which benefits patients with less core strength. Stan plans to incorporate English saddles for some patients because they allow for a greater variety of therapeutic motions.

Sessions tend to be about an hour and are conducted in the foundation’s horse arena. Riding trails are under construction to further expand therapeutic possibilities.

Steps To Your Dreams accepts insurance for physical, occupational and speech therapies. Therapeutic riding is a self-pay program.

Of Steps To Your Dreams, Stan said, “It’s a great place to be a part of and it is growing fast. We want to offer as much to the community as we can and serve our patients as many ways as possible.”

The foundation is looking for volunteers to assist with riding and therapy sessions. Volunteers must be at least 14 years old. Experience with horses is valuable but not necessary. A volunteer should be comfortable around horses and working with people with disabilities. Some sessions require multiple volunteers.

Steps To Your Dreams operates Monday through Thursday and can be reached at (937) 717-6741. The facility is located at 6276 Plattsburg Road, South Charleston.

For more information about the foundation’s services, upcoming fundraiser, volunteering, or making a donation, go to www.stepstoyourdreams.org/Contact.html.

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