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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Children and adults with special needs have a unique therapy option in the Bluegrass State. Trained animals on a Kentucky farm are helping hundreds overcome their challenges.
Many say horsemanship is common in the bluegrass.
"We don't take it lightly when we bring a horse in here," said Executive Director Pat Kline of Central Kentucky Riding for Hope. "It has to be a hole in the program that we really need to fill."
The non-profit Central Kentucky Riding for Hope has been providing a variety of "equine therapies" for more than 30 years to children and adults with special needs.
"It could be physical, cognitive disabilities or emotional/social disabilities," said Kline.
Experts say the treatment is customized to help individuals reach their personal goals or milestones.
"It could be the balance that a person needs to get up and learn how to walk," said Kline.
"It could be the fact that finally they were finally able to reach out and grab that mane, which means there's a major possibility they have the ability to reach out and grab a fork."
Kline said when participants first start out, they may not get onto a big horse. She said they are actually going to get tested and start out on an "equicizer" to assess things like balance, coordination and range of motion to see if they're even ready to be paired with a horse.
In order to be paired with the right horse, Kline said. "they would have an appropriate temperament for them, a good skill set for the skill sets that they possess."
Some at the additional summer camps are able to trot, lead, walk and canter through summer camp to become even closer to their companions.
During the month of June 24, the U.S. Pony Club CKRH members enjoyed getting to know their horse partners a little better.
"They really transform in those four days, their confidence grows by leaps and bounds," said Lead Instructor Jenny Jackson.
They say the ones with manes and tails lead and assist them in ways many cannot see.
"Horses, they are magic," said Jackson.
"You have to pay attention to them. You have to be in the moment with them to focus."
Those who have witnessed the transformations say the results are anything but make believe.
"It really is nothing short of miraculous a lot of times," Kline said.
"It's almost like they stand up taller and grow in front of you… Even the smallest accomplishment can translate into something really big for the individual."
While Klein said their lead "therapists" are paid with affection, they do have trained professionals to assist in the therapy. She said they also rely heavily on donations, fund raising and volunteers to continue enriching lives.
"There's definitely a need we always want to increase the amount of people to serve and we can't do that without volunteers to help serve in that capacity," said Volunteer Coordinator Keri Manley.
"Every time I tell them thank you, I get, no thank you back because they feel like they get so much out of it."
For more information on Central Kentucky Riding For Hope or to find out how you can donate or volunteer, click here.