‘Miracle horses’ facilitate healing of body, mind and spirit at Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center | TheFencePost.com

‘Miracle horses’ facilitate healing of body, mind and spirit at Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center

Story and Photos Lincoln Rogers
Kiowa, Colo.

Spared by fires that consumed the Black Forest region north of Colorado Springs last summer, Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center remains an oasis of healing for those disabled in body, mind and/or spirit.

The concept of using horses to help people with various disabilities experience the reality of progress and hope in their lives might seem miraculous, but it's a part of everyday life for the volunteers and staff at PPTRC.

"I think it works because (our horses) help clients beat the odds," said Dayna Jenkins, PPTRC's volunteer development manager. "I think the physical benefit of learning balance and learning how to sit up straight, have that core and trust an animal, you get both a physical benefit and also an emotional one. There's no machine, there's no person that could give you that gift. Horses are so unique in that aspect. Even if you are in rodeo and ranching, you really have that benefit and that connection with your horse. For us, we just are in the business to help those with disabilities."

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"We could not do this without that," Jenkins said about the charitable lease. "No way in any world could we do that. We are very grateful for this facility and what they do for us."

Along with much needed contributions, 140 volunteers show up on a regular basis to help create miracles of hope and healing with clients ranging in age from two to 82, including those with issues relating to military service. Due to their proximity to Colorado Springs, serving members of the military was a natural extension of their program.

"In sharing the ways of the horses – their needs, fears, motivations and relationships – we cultivate an environment of safety and authenticity that is elusive in the daily lives of many," shared Nancy Beers, PPTRC program director since 2007, about working with those in the military. "One way to portray what happens is that we see people 'thaw out' in the presence of the horses. Not only is it gratifying, it's an honor and a privilege."

Whether it is within the indoor arena, in outdoor arenas and/or on "sensory trails," clients with physical handicaps, cognitive disorders and emotional issues all find healing through their interaction with a horse.

What makes it even more special is the optimism and hope their family members receive along the way.

"(He went) from struggling to just sit up and roll over to crawling within the first two months he was here," shared Amanda Puryear of Colorado Springs about her two and half-year-old son, Landon, who has Prader Willie syndrome.

The impact of Landon's progress at PPTRC was revealed by tears welling in his mother's eyes as she watched him take unsteady, but unassisted, steps from the arena gate and into her waiting arms.

"It's exciting," Puryear said in a voice full of emotion. "You expect, when you have a baby, at six months they are going to do this (and) at a year they are going to do that. Everyone is so excited when they do those things and Landon was struggling just to move at six months. So to see him actually be able to do that … " she paused as he teetered toward her, joy covering both their faces … "it's heartwarming. It's very special. It's more exciting for me, because it's something that I … I wondered if it was ever going to happen."

"I was not familiar with hippotherapy at all," said Suzanne Donehower, whose 10-year-old daughter, Sarah, has been treated at PPTRC for five years.

When first enrolling Sarah in the program, Donehower didn't know quite what to expect.

"The physical aspect of what it's done for her, in strengthening her, that (was) unexpected," she added. "Being able to get stronger through the horseback riding … that has been a huge help for her."

Like Amanda Puryear and her son, Landon, Suzanne Donehower has also experienced the extraordinary combination of horses and healing at PPTRC. Her brush with the miraculous, however, came through watching four strangers dedicate themselves to her daughter inside the arena during each and every one of her hippotherapy sessions (each hippotherapy client has a horse leader, two side walkers and an instructor/therapist with them in the arena).

It is a feeling she thinks everyone should experience.

"To see four people dedicated to helping my child on a horse in that arena … it's just neat," said Donehower. "You see something bad on the news (all the time) and you say, 'no, there are still people that care.' You need that," she finished with passion. "You need to see that in society, and need to be reminded of that." ❖

For More Information

For more information on the Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center, go to http://www.pptrc.org, email them at PPTRC@PPTRC.org, or call them at (719) 495-3908.

Quick Facts

• PPTRC served over 500 clients in 2013.

• PPTRC charges clients $30 per hour for Therapeutic Riding Classes, even though their overhead expenses are approximately $200 per hour.

• Their 16 horses eat 3 to 4 bales of hay just for breakfast every day.

• 140 volunteers show up on a regular basis to work with clients.

• PPTRC can always use more quality hay and/or feed.

• PPTRC always needs good tack and equipment.

• PPTRC is always in need of sound, well-broke horses of any breed (ages 8-18). Turnover of horses is regular, as PPTRC chooses to retire horses while they are sound and healthy.

• The therapies are demanding on the horses, since they compensate for a rider’s disabilities and lack of balance on their backs, as well as the mental stress of adjusting to new people on a frequent basis.

Comments from clients of the Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center

“Through them I found myself. I lost myself, I almost killed myself. And a horse and two amazing people helped me find myself again.”

“If you don’t believe in God, look into the eyes of a horse and it will change you.”