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Horses help riders conquer health challenges

12:24 AM, Oct 11, 2009   |    comments
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ROCKFORD, Michigan (WZZM) - The economy is taking its toll on individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations. Saturday night one group that helps strengthen and brighten the lives of hundreds of people with disabilities held a fundraiser. The Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding is doing what it can to survive the economy.

You can't miss the magnificence of the animals. But it's the magic that takes place between horse and rider that's the focus at the Equest Center.

Rider Brooke Jenkins says, "Being around horses makes it to where you can be yourself, not who people want you to be." Jenkins started riding at Equest almost ten years ago. Despite the fact her doctors said she might never walk, she gets around pretty well, partly because of her work with the horses. She says, "It makes me stronger in my arms, my legs, hips and stuff."

Equest Center Executive Director Kathy Ryan says therapeutic riding can help riders learn to speak through the commands they give the horses. The movement of the horse helps people learn to walk. And so much more. Ryan says, "We call it therapy disguised as fun because the kids don't know they're working."

Equest volunteer Marissa Freyling rode and loved horses before her health problems began. She explains, "I had cancer and dealt with complications. Had a bone marrow transplant, a kidney transplant. And all through that, had horse posters on my hospital wall, just dreaming of getting back on one." Freyling was able to get back to riding, sidesaddle, thanks to Equest.

Ryan says fundraisers and donations make all of these success stories possible. She says more families are dealing with lost jobs and rising medical costs and are requesting scholarships to attend Equest. Since the Center has a policy to not allow finances to prevent someone from riding, costs are tight.

The Equest Center helps about 150 riders per week and has a waiting list of about 100.

The Equest Center is always looking for donations and for volunteers. To learn more about Equest you can call (616) 866-3066 or click here for the Equest Center's website.

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