Monday, October 30, 2000

Handicapped students helped by time in saddle

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When Patrick Teal rides a horse, his disabilities seem to disappear along with his walker. And, suddenly, the 8-year-old boy is the tallest person in the barn.

        Patrick and 16 other Oakdale Elementary special-needs students participate weekly in a therapeutic horseback riding program through Go Forward at Oasis Farm, Colerain Township.

        Go Forward, affiliated with the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, is one of six similar horseback programs in the Tristate.

        Because riding a horse moves the body in a rhythm similar to a human gait, riders with physical disabilities often show improvement in flexibility, balance and muscle strength.

        Other benefits: increased self-esteem, confidence and communication skills.

        “Some kids who form one-word utterances talk in full sentences,” said Susan Brenner, an Oakdale special education teacher. “They give them commands. The horse won't move until kids give a command, such as, "Walk on.'”

        When they're on a horse, Ms. Brenner said, they're in control of a large animal. They're the tallest people in the barn. All of that adds up to making them feel important.

        The K-5 students have disabilities that include autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida and mental retardation.

        Each student wears a helmet while riding. Three volunteers walk alongside the horse.

        A few minutes after mounting a horse, Patrick lay on his back while riding — with a little help from volunteers.

        “Patrick has spina bifida,” Ms. Brenner said. “(Riding) helps lengthen his body; he tends to hunch over. It provides sensory input. It helps strengthen his abdominal muscles, in turn allowing him to stand up straighter. We're trying to get him from the walker to crutches to even walking independently.”

        Leslie Odioso of Cleves watched as her 9-year-old daughter, Audrey, rode her favorite horse, Levi, an Appaloosa. The little girl, who has developmental disabilities, called and waved, “Hi, Mommy,” when she rode by.

        Her mom wasn't sure Audrey would ride a horse, but on the first day, the girl said, “I want up.” Now, she can't wait until Thursdays.

        “I was surprised she took to it as well as she did,” Mrs. Odioso said. “She's much more talkative when she's up on the horse. She starts talking in complete sentences. She's learned a lot of new words associated with horses, like "saddle.'”

        Ms. Brenner and another special education teacher, Jody Brandon, coordinated a campaign to raise more than $11,000 to pay for the program.Money came from private donations and a memorial fund on behalf of a rider's sister.

        Donations to the therapeutic riding program are welcome. Call Susan Brenner, 574-1100.


11,000 set out to beat breast cancer
Sludge dissipates on way to Cincinnati
Man target of shooting for 2nd time in month
Three arrested after burglary, 8-mile car chase
CPS chief is upbeat on levy
How school funding is determined
Population drop puts city in tight spot
RADEL: Stirring the pot on Halloween
Toledo vote often key to Ohio
Results of our news poll
- Handicapped students helped by time in saddle
New voters get extra push
Sleuths descend on Sharonville
Fairfield Twp. outgrows police force
Foster kids await adoption
Got spare time? Sign here
Group honors arts professor
Local Digest
Main St. battle renewed
Planner hired in Deerfield
You asked for it
Babbitt to try again for Ohio nature area
Hospital didn't act on fears
Indiana county tries to hold off development
Open-heart surgery comes to small cities
Shady contractors prey on consumers