Ivan Padilla is introduced to his therapy partner, a horse named “Belle.” Ivan's parents watch their son ride with a big smile on his face.
“It's a great feeling to see him having fun, compared to how he was a month ago when he got here. He's doing real good,” said Johnny Padilla, Ivan’s father.
Padilla says Ivan has a condition that causes paralysis. A month ago Ivan couldn't move from the neck down. Friday, his health and confidence improved with a visit from the therapy horses. A Children's Hospital doctor says these horses have a healing effect on kids.
“Beyond the psychological uplift, which is huge, we're also able to improve their balance, their strength and improve their coordination… Then there's a huge behavioral component and also communication levels. Sometimes there's a different level of speech kids are able to obtain with animals,” said Dr. Jennifer Crocker, the director of pediatric rehabilitation.
The therapy tests patients’ courage too. One brave child missing most of his right arm rides backwards then balances with no hands on the saddle.
“There's a connection that horses, dogs, whatever you have, just make you feel so much better,” said Bud Breslin of Heart of the Horse Therapy Ranch.
The therapy ranch also works with veterans with disabilities. To learn more, click on “related links.”