The North Carolina Therapeutic Riding Center empowers children and adults with physical, emotional, mental and social challenges to create active, healthier and more fulfilling lives through equine-assisted activities and therapies.
Like many children with autism, Briana often has trouble focusing on the world around her. She is nonverbal and communicates primarily through signing. Since Bri first started riding three years ago, the change in her is amazing. The motion of the horse regulates Bri’s system and allows her to tune in to the actions and voices of others. Early on, Bri might have had a ‘meltdown’ before her lesson, something many parents of children with autism experience with regularity. Now, each week, she runs down the hill and presses her face against the arena door, happy and eager to begin her lesson. Bri approaches new tasks with a curiosity and flexibility that she was previously unable to display.
“She signed AND said the word ‘go’ to her horse. I couldn’t believe it. She was talking! She just glowed and giggled with pride. She is a different child on a horse.” —Tricia Wildman, Bri’s mom
Bri is just one rider benefiting from her work with a trained team of two sidewalkers—volunteers who support and encourage—along with a speech therapist/ instructor, a horse leader and a therapy pony, Star. Participants and their families are transformed through therapeutic riding classes, hippotherapy (physical, occupational and speech therapy with the help of a horse) and all-abilities summer camps. On this tranquil Orange County farm, programming will expand in 2013 to help wounded warriors, children facing cancer and the deserving families caring for them.