IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - The Innovative Therapeutic Riding Program has spent the past six years helping those with a variety of special needs.
And every year the success stories get bigger.
"It gives you freedom that you don't get in the chair," Mary Verwolf, riding program participant, said.
Verwolf suffers from MS. She was always involved with horses until her disease became too much.
"About a year and a half ago, I was in a coma and in the hospital for about six to eight weeks," Verwolf said. "When I woke up I was primarily paralyzed from the neck down."
That's when she got involved with the Innovative Therapeutic Riding Program. The amount it has helped is tremendous.
"Now I have really excellent control, for me, in the core muscles," Verowolf said. "And I'm able to stay on the horse, Echo, longer up to about 50-55 minutes, where before I was lucky to make 28 minutes. So it's made an incredible difference."
This program helps those with physical, cognitive and mental disabilities. The results speak for themselves.
"I've watched them, who are wheelchair bound, who cannot get on the horse themselves," Melissa Child, employee of the Innovative Therapeutic Riding Program, said. "And they, after riding for a certain amount of time, they are able to get on the horse by themselves, walk with a walker. It's just amazing the physical aspect."
One participant who has a unique story is Barbara Adams. Adams is a former Olympic horse rider. Because of an accident she was no longer able to ride. The program is helping her regain strength.
"Well, confidence for one thing," Adams said. "It helps me relax my muscles and get them stretched out. It helps me sit up straight."
Horses don't just help physically. The connection humans can make with horses goes a long way.
"They also have a human-equine connection where you have that mental connection with the horse," Child said. "It's easier to tell a horse all your problems because they're not judgemental."
Both women agree.
"Inside and out," Adams said. "Physically and mentally."
Verwolf said, "Physically, mentally and for the soul also."
The riding program is holding a barn dance and auction fundraiser at the Box T Barn and Stables on September 30. You can purchase tickets through their website here.