OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — An organization in south Overland Park aims to make a positive impact in the lives of individuals with disabilities, while creating new possibilities through its unique therapy program.
Heartland Therapeutic Riding has been operating since 1978, offering their services to individuals with special needs and disabilities in the Kansas City area.
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“Therapeutic riding is teaching riding skills and then adapting our teaching to what the riders need to be successful," said Bonnie Bruns, equine program director. "We are very specifically here to provide services for those that may not be able to ride elsewhere."
Equine therapy, also known as horse therapy, involves interactions between the riders and horses. This unique approach is aimed to improve the physical, emotional and cognitive skills for the individuals they serve. Bonnie said the horses are making a major impact on these riders.
“The connection with the horse is one of the main benefits of our program," Bruns said. “The movement of the horse in particular is the closest we can simulate to our natural walking movement of a person. And so it engages your body systems, your muscle groups in the same way that you would be engaging them when you are walking.”
Classes are offered throughout the week and children as early as 2 years old are eligible to join. But beyond the physical health aspect of the program, it's helping teach kids and adults to create a bond between each other, while also helping them feel a sense of belonging.
“Our ultimate goal at Heartland is, yes, we do want them to have a great time riding, we want them to learn riding skills, but our ultimate goal is to improve their lives outside the barn," Bruns said.
The effects of the class have been evident for people like Michael Bottom, who started riding last April.
“Whenever I come to class, I'm excited and pumped up and ready to go for the day," Bottom said. "I get to see my friends and hang out with them."
Bruns said that this program would not function without the help of its dedicated volunteers. With classes being full, they are always needing more people who are passionate about working with horses and helping kids with disabilities.
Make sure to check out their website if you would like to learn more about Heartland Therapeutic Riding.