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BY TERRY POPE
Horses are not cute and cuddly like kittens or puppies?kids
can't sneak them inside without someone in
the house finding out.
However, horses and ponies are becoming best
friends with about 60 Brunswick County developmentally
handicapped students who are involved in the
adapted horseback riding program that began last
Tuesday morning in Bolivia.
Sponsored by the Brunswick County Parks and
Recreation Department and the Brunswick County
Community Schools program, the four-week course
stresses hippotherapy, a therapeutic method of using
horses io neip siuueius uvercviiie their own physical
Now in its third year, the adapted horseback program
will introduce new lessons within a few weeks
that concentrate on improving posture for students who
have difficulty in motor skills, said Tina Pritchard,
special events coordinator with the Brunswick County
Parks and Recreation Department.
Students will learn to improve their posture while
riding on horseback, or for the smaller children, while
riding on ponies. A horse's rhythmical movements are
the same natural movements that a human pelvis
should make, so horseback riding can improve relaxation,
help strengthen specific muscles and improve
posture, Ms. Pritchard said.
For some students, allowing a horse's legs to
replace their own can be a moment of success, no matter
how dcvelopmcntally disabled the child may be. The
rider may feel special for participating in an activity
that many able-bodied persons often find difficult. Such
lessons arc the key to hippotherapy, according to a
study prepared by Dr. Gertrude Freeman, professor of
physical therapy at the University of Texas.
"The ultimate goal, at the end of the four weeks,"
Ms. Prilehard said, "is for the children to be able to ride
by themselves, without someone leading the horse. It
depends on how well they progress."
Classes from six schools, Union Primary, Southport
Elementary, Waccainaw Elementary, Iceland Middle,
South Brunswick Middle and Bolivia Elementary, participate
in the program three days a week for two hours
each day at the Unicorn Stables on Midway Road in
Bolivia. Stable manager Nina Quattlebaum has introduced
her therapeutic horses and ponies for three
years to the students who are always eager to return
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The students are first taught not to be afraid of
Jack, Trigger, Copper, Fuller and the other horses by
learning to groom and care for them. Students learn
about personal hygiene and the need for self-care
through the grooming techniques.
Some students who took the course last year
brought carrots and apples to feed their friends last
week. Such positive interaction allows the children to
feel warmth and acceptance by the animal. Dr.
Freeman's study states.
"Positioned high on a horse without crutches or
wheelchairs," the study states, "disabled children have
the opportunity to interact with their peers on an equal
level. Hippotherapy provides this opportunity, nod
physical therapists play a central role in the achievement
of its goals."
SHANNON KINO rides Jack while Melissa Norrls
walks the pony. The Wareamaw Kleinenlary students
will continue the class lor lour weeks.
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WACCAMAW ELEMENTARY student Jumlc Simmons a
brushes Fuller, one of the horses used in the adapted p
horseback program. Students learn about grooming
Betsy Simpson, physical therapist with the schools,
oversees each child's involvement in the program and
focuses on what activities each child should be performing.
For example, if students have difficulty moving
their left arms, then exercises are introduced requiring
left arm movements, such as grooming the horse. That
way, the students suhitniinolly learn to improve their
motor skills while enjoying the activity.
"We slow it down and go one brush at a time," Ms.
Pritchard said. "Students must also walk the horse
before they ride. The reason we do that is, if they're going
to be jumpy wulklng the horse, then they are also
going to be jumpy riding the horse."
If a student can not mount a ttorse on his own, then
he doesn't ride, Ms. Pritchard said. It's all a part of
teaching students to help themselves.
"It's so important that they do it themselves and
that they get off the horse by themselves," she added.
"They're really learning 11 lot out there, such as learning
to tell their left from their right. The school system
shouldn't think that they're Just out there riding
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Some groups have requested tluit horseback riding
be added to the county's Special Olympics program. All
of the children that are in the adapted horseback program
also participate in the Special Olympics, which
are held today (Thursday) at South Brunswick High
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Approximately $700 each year is budgeted for the
adaptive horseback program that began three years
ago as a pilot program for the county with intentions of
making it u part of the students' curriculum. In the first
year, only three schools participated.
Although more students arc involved in the prograin
Uils year, the number i<( volunteers has declined,
Ms. Pritchard said. The program still needs volunteers
to help with the students from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
"I would encourage volunteers to come out," Ms.
Pritchard added, "even if they can only help out for a
few hours each week. We always need more
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