N.J. riding programs help improve health of those with special needs
IT ALL started with pony rides.
In the late 1980s, Laurie Landy began taking her preschool special needs students to the Monroe equestrian farm she co-owned.
Then an occupational therapist in the Freehold Township school district, Landy thought that spending a day at the 200-acre Congress Hill Farm would allow the children to get outside, interact with the horses and have some fun riding ponies.
Then, something miraculous happened.
A little girl, who had been nonverbal all year, suddenly began singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
Landy was stunned. She wondered what it was about the experience — the horse’s movements, the farm’s sights and smells, the animal’s calming nature? — that stimulated the child to sing. She contemplated whether such an undertaking could help stimulate the use of other muscles as it had the girl’s vocal muscles.
So she invited a private client with cerebral palsy to the farm. “I just wanted to see what would happen,” she says. The boy’s mom brought him to the farm for riding sessions and, after a few weeks, he began walking without crutches. read more…