Horses helping kids with special needs - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Horses helping kids with special needs

Rick Hawthorne is a very unique horse trainer who helps special needs kids vault past their disabilities.

"When we started, right from the beginning it was mainstream – handicapped and non-handicapped," says Hawthorne, a co-founder of Valley View Vaulters.

"What that does for those who can't function normally is it acts like therapy, as far as regaining physical ability," explains student filmmaker Charles Schaefer.

One of Rick's students, Sami, had viral encephalitis twice. Doctors had to remove about three-quarters of his brain. Bob Lieberman, Sami's father, had serious doubts about letting his epileptic son ride a horse -- much less stand up on one.

"When Sami first started with us, he came out and his fingers were in his ears and he was yelling and there wasn't even a world according to Sami," recalls Hawthorne. But in about 20 minutes, Sami was up on a horse.

"And [there was] a tear in my eye. It was amazing," said Lieberman.

Gabriela Galvez-Reyna's son has cerebral palsy. "Doctors told me Isaac, my son, was not going to walk. I was going to have a little boy in a wheelchair. Now I have a little boy who's walking around."

And that's a result of the vaulting these children are learning.

"That moment, standing up on the horse, it was beautiful to see his determination, his loss of fear," adds Gabriela.

Lieberman sums it up by saying, "The biggest lesson I've learned really is that everybody can be greater than what they think they are."

If you'd like to watch Charles Schaefer's film Armed With Love in its entirety, you can do so on YouTube.

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