Dream Riders of Ky. help those with special needs through horse-assisted activities

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Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 6:15 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 28, 2022 at 7:23 AM CDT
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PHILPOT, Ky. (WFIE) - For almost two decades, Dream Riders of Kentucky has been making dreams come true for children and adults, who on a daily basis face physical, cognitive and/or emotional challenges.

Dream Riders of Kentucky is in Philpot, Kentucky, just outside Owensboro.

With horse-assisted programming, the executive director says the goal is to strengthen muscles, expand minds and form lifetime friendships.

The program works with children from four-year-olds to adults of any age.

The executive director says participants will have both visible and invisible disabilities. It can be physical, emotional or social challenges.

For example, they say they work with a lot of children with autism.

They function by using positive enforcement and the sensory input that the horse gives.

As the horse walks, it gives a type of sensation input that they say people with autism are seeking.

They also say the horse’s repeated movement as they walk, research has shown, provides the same muscle movement as if the person was walking correctly, helping people with a variety of disabilities like those who have suffered from a stroke.

“That muscle memory and core strength development that happens and is needed for correct walking is imparted to that person then they benefit from that strength and coordination,” said Sandy Webster, executive director. “And that coupled with physical therapy, and occupational therapy in addition to what we do, that partnership makes it work. So we have students that are told that they may never walk or their parents are told that and they’re walking.”

Dream Riders of Ky. - Pt II

For 7-year-old Minh, a bilateral amputee, and Anne Marie, who is working on some impulsive behaviors, they’ve gained many useful skills from the program but also a really close bond.

”We’re both adopted. And we play games. Dream Riders helps me to get stronger,” said Ann Marie.

“We met when we were getting on our horses and all that. But I was on a team. And we met and we chatted and we became best friends,” said Minh.

Dream Riders of Ky. - Pt III

We spoke with Ann Marie’s dad, and he could not express his gratitude enough for the program.

”What’s so amazing about this program is how empowering it is for these kids,” said Jesse Horn, Ann Marie’s dad. “When you see a young man or a young lady who is unable to hold their head up, unable to have full control of their arms or their feet and they make just a little bit of progress and how much difference that makes in their quality of life, it’s truly amazing.”

Executive Director Sandy Webster tells us the non-profit’s goal is to never turn anyone away.

She says they charge a fee of $150, which is only a third of what the course would actually cost for participants.

The other two-thirds come from fundraisers, grants and donors.

You can head over to Dream Riders of Kentucky’s Facebook page to learn more about the program.

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