Therapeutic riding program benefits local kids

(Brandon Geier/WCIV)

By Sonya

JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) -- It was a beautiful day to be outdoors - and to take a ride.

Some special needs students from Oakland Elementary School got that chance Thursday as part of a therapeutic riding program.

It is all about the children and the horses at Charleston Area Therapeutic Riding's 43-acre farm.

"We have a very large public school program and these children are in self-contained special education classes and they come to us during school hours as part of their IEP, their curriculum, to come and participate in therapeutic riding once a week for 12 weeks," said Murray Neale, executive director of Charleston Area Therapeutic Riding.

And riding not only gets the kids out in the fresh air, but it also offers physical benefits.

"The movement of the horse is very similar to a human's gait so when they are on the horse they are feeling that same thing and it's moves their pelvis the same way that we would walk," said Amanda Addy, one of the instructors at CATR.

And simple things like getting on the horse also have benefits.

"You saw them get on, they have to lean down and put their weight in their hands and lift their leg over and that's great for motor planning because it's a whole sequence that they have to go through," said Addy.

For some, it's a little daunting at first, but most get excited about the ride. All of them seemed to be smiling and laughing once they interacted with the horse.

The instructors seem to get just as much out of it as the kids.

"They teach me how to have joy for something so littleputting a ring on the end of a pumpkin just excites the kids to no end and it just teaches you to be happy about the little things in life," said Addy.

And for these kids, it's all about the little things.

Charleston Area Therapeutic Riding is a nonprofit organization that relies heavily on individual donations. The nonprofit charges a minimal fee for services but will never turn anyone away.

CATR also provides private lessons for children and adults with disabilities. The organization usually has 140 students a year.