Horses aid in therapy for students: Equine therapy helps physically, emotionally and socially

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There are a lot of different forms of therapy available to special needs children but perhaps the one that is gaining popularity because of its results is equine therapy.

Equine therapy uses horses for physical and psychological therapy for children who have autism, ADHD, Down's syndrome, cerebral palsy and children that have behavioral, cognitive, emotional and social development disorders.

Lewis-Palmer School District 38 special needs students have been taking advantage of equine therapy as part of their adapted physical education program for nearly 12 years.

Dena Sikole, adapted P.E. teacher for the district, said equine therapy helps the students with core balance, self-confidence, leadership, socialization and helps the students in forming relationships.

“Physically and emotionally, we hit all areas,” Sikole said. “When they form relationships with horses it helps build relationships with their peers.”

The students participate in a six to eight week program. Once a week, for one hour a day, they head to the Gypsy Wind Ranch outside of Monument. The students first learn how to approach the horse, learn about grooming and learn about the different parts of the horse and then eventually start riding them with the assistance from members of the Monument Hill Kiwanis Club who volunteer with the program.

Nana Candelaria said the program has really helped her grandson Garrett open up.

“He loves to talk about Ellie. Ellie and him connected from day one,” Candelaria said about her grandson's connection with the horse he worked with. “It is his thing. It's what he looks forward to each week.

Candelaria said Garrett is very shy but he loves to share with his peers stories about Ellie. He is getting ready to do a presentation in his class about Ellie. She hopes to continue with the equine therapy.

As soon as the students arrive at the ranch they are eager to pet with the horses and the horses seem to love the attention.

“It's amazing the bond he's made with the horses,” Stacey Biggs said about her son Tyler. “He's more outgoing now.”

On the last day of the program students led their horses around in a scavenger hunt with help from their Kiwanis volunteers. Then they had a small party with snacks and had the opportunity to ride their horses one last time.

Sikole said without grants and volunteers they would not be able to continue the program. They just recently received $720 from the Tri-Lakes Women's Club for the program.

“Each one of these kids has a great time,” Candelaria said.

Breakout Text

TLWC Grant Donations Awarded in May 2012

Diane DeLoux (Palmer Ridge science) - up to $4,995 for five sets of SPARK learning systems with sensor bundles

Jennifer Coopman (Palmer Lake Elementary sixth grade math and science) - up to $1,995.16 for Energy and Environment teaching materials

Karen Gingrich (Bear Creek Elementary Kindergarten) - up to $2,492.13 for purchase of SMART board and projector

Laura Johnson (Occ therapist) - up to $544.50 for purchase of 36 magnet boards

Niki Maresh (Bear Creek Elementary preschool) - up to $955.60 for purchase of phonics materials

Susan Larson (Palmer Ridge Booster Club) - up to $3,400 for purchase of roll cage for boys baseball and girls softball

Cynthia Eversole (Lewis-Palmer Middle School) - up to $4,300 for purchase of new stage curtains.