(My friend Debbie and I met in second grade, although we didn't become best buddies until sixth grade. If you're lucky, you have a friend that you know you can call at any time of the day or night and she will be right there if you need her. Though we live 2,500 miles apart, I feel like Debbie is by my side every step of the way and I by hers. I love that she mentioned Josie, who I loved almost as much as Cindy, my own dog, growing up. One of the best things about the guest blogs is that I find out about fantastic organizations that I had no idea existed and this is certainly one of them. -Melinda)
I’m sure most of us have good memories of animals from our childhood – whether it was a favorite pet (mine was my dog Josie) or a memory of animals we saw at the zoo or circus.
But imagine if you had a loved one who was developmentally challenged and the joy that riding a horse could bring. That is exactly how it is for my friend Linda and her grandson. Griff is a 3 1/2-year-old little boy who is developmentally challenged and was born with hypotonia, which is a state of low muscle tone. He also has delayed speech.
About a year ago his physical therapist suggested he go to an organization called Horse And Buddy, located in New Hill, N.C ., which is a non-profit that assists all ages with special needs to improve balance, muscle tone, motor skills and self-esteem. Most of the teachers are certified Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) instructors. Horse and Buddy also uses hippotherapy which uses the movement of the horse to provide sensory and motor input. The horse’s variable, rhythmic and repetitive gait is similar to a human’s and helps the rider build core strength and coordination.
When Griff first started at Horse and Buddy, he needed help holding himself up in the saddle. He goes one day a week and now almost a year later he can sit up by himself and can also sit side saddle, which is more difficult and uses more core strength. Horse and Buddy also uses rings, chimes and other items hanging from trees to help with sensory issues. When Griff first started a year ago, he wasn’t interested in grabbing for any of the items hanging from the trees. Now he grabs the rings and really likes to make the chimes ring.
Horse and Buddy has helped children with Down Syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and cognitive delays improve motor skills, strengthen their torso, legs and upper body, improve balance and posture, build confidence and socialization, and provide a sense of pride and accomplishment.
-Debbie Strickland Lisk
Oct. 26: Horse and Buddy