How Horses Bring Healing

One equitherapy organization shares the physical and spiritual impact horses have on patients.

Some horses are used for show. Others are used for transportation. And then there are those that are used for healing.
That’s the goal of Wings of Hope Equitherapy, a Cleburne-based organization that uses horses to help those with mental, physical or emotional challenges, from autism to PTSD. Wings of Hope recently held its Round-Up for Riders dinner and party on Aug. 4, raising over $160,000 to support its mission. 
So how exactly does a horse help a rider? Wings of Hope Development Director Allison Gross shared some examples.

Physical “The horse’s gait is the most natural simulated movement to a human’s natural gait,” she said. “If someone is born with cerebral palsy and their gait is not what we would consider normal, and they don’t necessarily walk like you and I do, when they get on a horse, the horse’s movement is going to actually simulate the movement that our bodies were intended to do. There’s a lot of physical benefits, especially for those who do have an altered or unnatural gait.”

Cognitive Working with horses improves cognitive abilities as well, Gross said. Stroke survivors, for example, can benefit from guiding their horses through trail patterns on a repetitive basis.
“For them to have that repetition cognitively and be able to execute a 10-step trail pattern, and for them to remember that pattern and teach their horse that pattern, and do it in conjunction together, there’s a lot of cognitive benefits to that,” she said.

Emotional “Being around a horse and seeing the power that they have can truly be life altering, especially when you have someone with a disability —  they’re in a wheelchair 24/7, and then they get on a horse, and they’re able to control that horse and partner with that horse,” Gross said. “That’s very empowering.”

Spiritual Gross said founders Margaret Dickens and Patti Pace wanted to incorporate faith when they started the organization in 1996, especially for families of children with disabilities who at the time felt uncomfortable in church, to provide them a place to feel welcome and also help meet their spiritual needs.

Last year, with the help of the Amon G. Carter Foundation and builder AG Builders, Wings of Hope opened Hope Sanctuary — a 400-square-foot space used not just for events and meetings, but also prayer groups.
“We feel blessed to be able to bless others, and the way that we do that is to share the love of Christ and to do that through the partnership of a horse,” Gross said.