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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Making the world better

December 02, 2010|By Joe Puglia

I watched as Sinead Collazo meticulously groomed Wrigley, a Haflinger pony donated to "Move A Child Higher (MACH-1) by the Tournament of Roses Association. Sinead, a student studying Equine Science at Colorado State, was home for Thanksgiving and volunteering at the Rose Bowl Riders' stables. Her meticulous attention towards Wrigley was founded in an obvious love for horses.

MACH-1 is an altruistic and therapeutic riding program working with disabled children and adults. Using the discipline of Hippotherapy, horses are used for therapeutic intervention. Joy Rittenhouse, the program director explained, "The movement of a horse is similar to our walk. Hippotherapy helps with balance, strengthens the upper core body muscles, enhances pelvic rotation, concentration, hand and eye coordination, and creates intellectual independence.

I asked Joy, "Why horses?"

She replied, "Horses are incredible animals. They know when people have special needs and try their best to meet those needs. Horses are understanding, compassionate, and non-judgmental. The bond developed between children and horses enhance emotional contact."

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Gayle Jenkins, a MACH-1 volunteer, gave numerous accounts of the contributions of their horses: Mr. Dotz, Mercy, Lavender, Wrigley and Heidi. "Watching the children smile and be normal if only for an afternoon brings a realization that we did something better for the world," Jenkins said.

Using horses for therapeutic endeavor evolved from the writings of Hippocrates of ancient Greece. In his work, "Natural Exercise," he mentions riding as a means of wellbeing. In the 1960s the horse became an adjunct to physical therapy throughout Europe. In 1969 the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) instituted Hippotherapy as a viable methodology for working with individuals with special needs. NARHA is the parent of therapeutic riding associations providing legitimacy through training, mentoring and certification for volunteers.

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