[pb_vidembed title=”ASPIRE Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program” caption=”” url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU99G42EHP4″ type=”yt” w=”480″ h=”385″]
If you are driving down Kimball Avenue in Waterloo you may drive by “ASPIRE.” You will see a number of horses roaming around in the fields and cars coming and going. You would probably assume it’s a place for people to experience horseback riding. You would be right, but there’s much more to it than that.
At ASPIRE the horses may look like normal horses, but they are actually trained to be therapeutic riding horses.
The ASPIRE Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program provides services to individuals with disabilities through animal-assisted activities and outreach programs.
“Basically we teach individuals with disabilities how to ride horses,” said Marilyn Moore, executive director of ASPIRE.
Moore explained that a horse is similar to a human, so when an individual with disabilities who may not be able to walk, rides a horse, the horse mimics how it should feel to walk or sit.
“So it relaxes the muscles and then it begins to change the signals in the brain to tell you this is how it’s supposed to look to walk, this is how it looks to sit,” said Moore. “It touches every single muscle from the top of the head to the bottom of the toes.”
Debra Leisinger has been bringing her 18 year old son Andrew to ASPIRE for almost six years now. Andrew is considered mentally handicapped but the ASPIRE program has provided him with a number of benefits.
Leisinger explained, “It has helped his balance, he has gotten stronger through his torso and his leg muscles and arm muscles have also benefited from it. His balance is a lot better, his flexibility and even his fine motor skills have gotten better.”
Andrew is not the only individual who has benefited from the program.
“We’ve seen kids that absolutely couldn’t walk at all who began to take steps,” said Moore. “One little boy walked 27 steps just after eight weeks of lessons.”
The ASPIRE program is very important for families with children who have disabilities. Leisinger said it means a lot to her because of how much her son loves it.
“He looks so forward to it,” commented Leisinger. “He counts down the days till Wednesday gets here. He hates for November to get here because then it ends for the winter.”
Moore expressed that the most rewarding part about what she does is seeing the changes in the people they help.
“Some times it’s those small therapeutic moments that you understand we’ve had a breakthrough with them,” said Moore.
With November approaching, Andrew and the other riders will be finishing up their fall classes and looking forward to April when they can saddle up again.