Six-year old Landon Titsworth smiles from ear to ear as he rides atop his horse, Daisy Duke. It’s a crisp Friday morning and the spring session of equine therapy has begun at Rosewood Ranch for children with developmental disabilities.
Titsworth is among more than a dozen children who participate in hippotherapy at the Ranch, which is located five miles north of Pawnee Rock. A grant is provided by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals at Via Christi Health to cover a $25 riding fee per lesson for the children riders.
Rosewood Ranch is a certified member of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International, the leading therapeutic horsemanship organization in the world. Ranch instructors provide weekly equine therapy training throughout the year to more than 90 people with developmental disabilities. During six-week sessions in the spring, summer and fall, Fridays are reserved for children.
Horse therapy is more than just riding horses, explained Rosewood Ranch manager Eric Hammond. Maneuvering on horseback around barrels and poles, while placing flags and rings at different stations, allows riders to develop motor skills and improve muscle strength, balance, and dexterity.
“The objective of performing the different drills is to get their hands off the handles,” said Hammond. “By doing that, it forces them to balance and that helps to build trunk and leg strength. The gait of a horse also mimics walking, so it helps our riders to coordinate their movements in a realistic way that some of them cannot produce any other way.”
Titsworth is learning to walk and balance himself better using hippotherapy. Born with cerebral palsy, he has been participating in horse therapy at Rosewood Ranch for about three years.
“He’s come a long way in those three years,” said Landon’s father, Bill. “I’m so glad the horse therapy program is here for him.”
Initially, Landon was afraid of the horse, said Bill, but now he especially looks forward to Fridays, when he gets to visit and ride his familiar friend, Daisy Duke.
The desire to participate in hippotherapy is an important aspect of its effectiveness. To a child, therapy can feel like something he must do, but hippotherapy is something he wants to do, Hammond added.
“They benefit more from the therapy when they enjoy the process,” he explained. “The fun of riding a horse captivates them from week to week. For many of them, it is the highlight of their week.”
Find more about Rosewood Services Inc. online, http://rosewoodservices.com