Students find countless benefits through equine therapy

PIQUA – When one thinks of a therapy animal the first thought is of a cat or dog. Many skilled nursing and assisted living facilities have companion animals on-site because of the positive affect they have on residents. One might be surprised to learn there are larger animals that have been used for therapy since the 17th century. Early documentation shows warriors injured on the battlefield often used horses as a form of therapy. A few centuries later that method began taking hold in the U.S. Today, there are over 700 equine assisted therapy locations in the United States.

The closest therapeutic riding facility is only a half-hour drive from Greenville. Through the support of Ann and Keith Schaurer, Eagles’ Wings Stable, Inc., 5730 N. Washington Road, Piqua, began reaching out to children and adults and helping them gain or regain a variety of skills. The facility opened in 2006. Since that time, they have helped many regain strength or build muscle tone, learn socialization skills, develop balance and coordination, follow directions or stay on task, build confidence and self esteem, plus many more benefits.

According to Kelly Monnin, director, the facility opened with three horses, one instructor, nine volunteers and three students. Today, they have 17 students, eight horses and three part-time instructors. Some students come for a session or two and some may come for several years.

Thomas Blumenstock, 9, has been coming to Eagles’ Wings since he was three years old. His mother, Julie, noted that Thomas is Globally Delayed. He has had problems building his core strength and has socialization issues. “His handicap has limited his activities,” she said. Monnin was quick to point out a lot of their students cannot play some of the sports their brothers or sisters are playing, but they can participate in horseback riding.

Thomas doesn’t realize he is getting therapy. According to his mother, he gets excited when they turn on the road to get to the stable – even if it isn’t his therapy day. When asked if he liked coming to see the horses Thomas answered with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” His mom said he just enjoys coming and riding. However, every time he mounts the horse, stands up in the saddle, or sits up straight he is building his core strength. As he is learning how to make the horse go or when he follows the directions of the trainer he is developing the socialization skills he needs.

For Julie, the therapy Thomas receives isn’t the only therapy session of the day. While she and the other parents are sitting on the bench outside the ring they are talking and helping each other with the issues they face. “It’s bench therapy with other parents,” she said.

Equine assisted therapy can help with a variety of conditions, including ADD/ADHS, autism, mental retardation, Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, head trauma, communications disorders, at-risk youth and more. Monnin pointed out some of their adult students have benefited from this type of therapy after suffering a stroke or being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

Just like the warriors who used equine therapy in the 17th century, Eagles’ Wings Stables is currently reaching out to veterans. The American Legion in Tipp City and the VFW in Piqua have agreed to fully fund the therapeutic riding program for veterans that have been injured or are facing other types of issues.

Persons wanting to try equine assisted therapy do not need a prescription, but they do need a release from their doctor. Because of the generosity of donors qualified individuals can receive a student scholarship to help offset the cost.

For more information on Eagles’ Wings Stables or to set up an appointment, call 778-0021. The facility is also looking for volunteers and donors.

Thomas Blumenstock thinks he is having fun riding Jett, but he is also building his core strength and learning socialization skills. (Ryan Berry photo)

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