Horses part of therapy program for local students

Preston Ridenour does his exercises while sitting on a horse. Ride with Pride is an equine-assisted activities and therapy program for youth who receive physical and occupational therapies in educational settings. (Photo Provided)

GUYSVILLE, Ohio — Ride with Pride has grown in its second year.

This is an equine-assisted activities and therapy program for youth who receive physical and occupational therapies in educational settings. The program is held at Dutch Pines Equine in Guysville, Athens County. Jess Quinlan, a Meredith Manor graduate in Wood County, owns the business.

The program is not a horseback riding lesson, said Shawn Jones, physical therapist.

The focus is on improving the physical, social/emotional, cognitive skills, and communication/language of children. The horses are used to help with therapy, using various activities.

The children learn to feed the horses, groom or brush the animals before the saddle is put on, place the blanket and saddle on the horses, and learn about the horses. They also ride the horses.

Riley Pierce works on horse commands. Mary Lee Kelly watches. (Photo Provided)

The horses are like having another therapist in the program, Jones said.

Funding comes through grants from the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Ross Foundation as well as receiving support financially and freedom to expand the existing program by employer Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center in Wheeling.

Part of the monies raised at The Festival of Trees at the Blennerhassett Hotel in December is used to help fund this program.

Mary Lee Kelly, occupational therapist, and Jones wrote grants to receive funding and provide the therapy services. The program is serving Jackson County Schools in West Virginia and Belpre City and Wolf Creek in Ohio school districts.

The children receive therapy services in educational settings. The program runs on the summer camp concept for the students, Jones said.

Ethan Marshall participates in July Fourth activities during riding at Dutch Pines Equine. (Photo Provided)

The program has expanded from 13 students last year to 20 students this year. The 13 students who attended last year wanted to return, and they are being joined by seven students new to the program.

Two sessions are running this summer, with each session being four weeks long on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Session 1 was from June 11 through July 3, and Session 2 is from July 9 through July 31. Only one five-week session was held last year.

Each student receives four individual sessions, designed to work on goals with all the focus areas listed: physical, social/emotional, cognitive and communication/language. These goals are created with the child, parent and therapist all working together on a plan.

Parents bring the child to the summer program, with some driving an hour to reach the Athens County location.

Philip Farra performs multi-step directions while riding. Mary Lee Kelly watches. (Photo Provided)

Decker Sleek works on his balance with arms raised. (Photo Provided)