The Horses at We Can Ride
We Can Ride in Maple Plain, MN, helps people who need physical therapy by connecting them with horses. The people who go through the program at We Can Ride get more out of it than just time spent with horses. The movement of the horse helps engage core muscles on people who may not be able to exercise those muscles easily on their own. The guests see huge physical benefits from the therapy, even though they may not be bearing a lot of weight themselves.
Dianne and Gus
Dianne is sixty-five, and a grandmother. But a diagnosis of Gillian-Barre syndrome has made her life harder. She suffers from balance and sensory problems, causing her to frequently fall or nearly fall. She needed physical therapy, but until she found Gus and the program at We Can Ride, she wasn’t motivated to do it.
Lauren and Griffin
Lauren is a twenty-six-year-old attorney who works in Minneapolis, MN. She was diagnosed with arthrogryposis multiplex congenital, a disorder which affects the mobility in her joints. Arthrogryposis holds her back physically in some aspects of life, but she learned at a young age that it doesn’t affect her when she’s in the saddle.
“It affects me to some extent, but it doesn’t limit my ability to still ride a horse.”
Around 2015, Lauren had hip surgery which further limited her mobility. Almost immediately after the surgery she told herself that she didn’t want the loss of mobility to keep her from doing the things she loves, things like horseback riding. She started looking for somewhere near Minneapolis that offered therapeutic horseback riding programs. That’s when she found We Can Ride in Maple Plain, MN. And that’s where she met her therapy horse, Griffin.
“I’ve ridden a lot of horses in my life, but Griffin has been so interesting to work with. From the moment that I started working with him, he started picking up on how my body works a little differently.”
Lauren says that Griffin is able to understand her body language, and he was able to do it almost immediately. Because he can so intuitively pick up on her body’s signals, she’s felt more like the two of them aren’t in therapy. To Lauren, she’s just riding her favorite horse.
“I wanted to be a horseback rider, not someone who has a disability and uses a horse as a form of therapy.”
Griffin makes Lauren feel more confident, not just in the saddle, but out in the world as well. When she’s riding him, she feels like she has as much mobility and as much freedom as anyone else. And we’re happy to be a part of that freedom she’s found.
Kiara and Clown
Clown is a twenty-three-year-old paint thoroughbred who works as a therapy horse with We Can Ride in Maple Plain, Minnesota. He connects with people with disabilities, like eleven-year-old Kiara, who has Mitochondrial Cytopathy Disorder, which quickly drains her energy. A lot of people didn’t understand why Kiara was having a hard time.
“Nobody really understands that I am disabled until they see it. Like a lot of people will say I am fine and that I’m okay.”
Over the course of her therapy with Clown at We Can Ride, Kiara has slowly been able to increase her endurance while spending time with an animal she loves. Her core strength has increased, and her independence has grown. That’s something her doctors have noted, as well as the staff at We Can Ride.
“She has become more independent…[she has] more strength and her doctors have noticed…She is stronger. We can see it. We can see her growth and she is so very excited.”
-Simone, occupational therapist at We Can Ride
Not only has Kiara been able to grow from her work with Clown, but her mom is extremely thankful for the opportunities that Clown is bringing into her daughter’s life. Kiara is finally able to do normal little girl things, like go out and play. Clown has given that back to her, and Kiara’s mom doesn’t have to feel like those normal experiences are out of reach for Kiara.
“It’s really hard as a parent to sit there with physicians and have them say that you need to adjust, this may be normal for you, your normal may be twenty minutes to an hour [of activity]. It’s hard to sit down and have that conversation… [Clown has] given her a quality of life that we were kind of told wasn’t going to be there anymore.”
Kiara has normalcy in her life now. She’s able to be active, and for more than just twenty minutes a day. That’s because of Clown. That’s why the work that We Can Ride is doing is so important. Kiara is growing while interacting with an animal who she loves. Feed It Forward is proud to help We Can Ride and the other organizations like them.