Healing with horses: Green Hill Therapy to host fundraiser to continue mission

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Green Hill Therapy in Louisville is on a mission to help kids with special needs by riding horses as part of their physical therapy.

But the unique set up comes with unique costs. They're hosting their annual fundraiser on September 9 with the goal of raising $115,000.

Kelbourn is a horse that can be intimidating to some, but not for 4-year old Everett Rassi. He climbs right on and heads out into the arena at Green Hill Therapy.

"He loves it and he has a lot of fun on the horse," said Everett's mom, Samara.

Everett is one of the hundreds of kids who receive weekly therapy at Green Hill. The 10-acre horse farm in east Louisville integrates occupational, physical and speech therapy with hippotherapy, or treatment using horses.

"It is definitely hard work and they're definitely doing very hard occupational and physical therapy exercises, but what they don't realize is -- they don't realize how hard they're working," said Green Hill Executive Director, Lee Ann Weinberg.

During the typical hour-long sessions, half the time is spent in a more traditional setting and the other half is spent on horseback. In addition to the seven human therapists on staff, eight horse therapists help kids with a wide range of special needs.

"These horses are basically our partners and our equine staff if you will and we have different breeds and different sizes to provide different inputs," said Julie Minnick, the equestrian manager at Green Hill.

Riding horses can help kids strengthen their core, gain balance and even self esteem, which can pay off in other areas.

"We have had children that have started speaking just by getting on the horse, and being around animals and having that time to relax," said Minnick.

Everett Rassi's been riding at Green Hill for 16 months. His mom's already seen a huge improvement. "It has probably been the biggest thing that's helped him along," said Everett's mom, Samara.

For kids like Everett who require a lot of different therapies, making the session fun makes all the difference.

"It's really difficult when you have a child who needs so much help to try to force them to do things that aren't really natural to do. So it's really been fun to see him enjoy himself, while developing himself physically," said Samara Rassi.

With the unique therapy comes unique costs.

"If you think about keeping up a horse farm and horses, it's a bit more expensive than your overhead of a traditional therapy clinic, so we have quite a bit of overhead cost," said Weinberg.

On Saturday, September 9, Green Hill will host its biggest fundraiser of the year. "Hoedown on the Hill" runs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at their facility on Long Run Road and will feature dinner, games, music, and live and silent auctions. They hope to raise $115,000. Tickets are $75 and can be purchased by calling 502-244-8011 or online.

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