Changing Lives With Help From Horses

8:48 AM, Nov 25, 2013   |    comments
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COLFAX, NC - You hear about fundraisers for community groups and non-profit organizations all the time.  But when we heard the 7 Degrees of Change Foundation was having a raffle for Horsepower, we knew we had to show you why they're asking for donations.

"Horses have a unique ability to feel what you're feeling," said Jan Clifford, Executive Director of Horsepower.

Horsepower is a therapeutic horseback riding program for people with disabilities.  With 16 horses, the program is now in its 19th year.  

"They're big and they're warm and they're caring and I think they just want to do what we need, what we ask for them," Clifford said.

The Horsepower Program has participants as young as three years old, and as old as 89.

"Our participants have physical, mental and emotional disabilities," said Clifford.

Clifford said some of the participants are veterans.  The Horsepower program has a partnership with the Wounded Warriors Program.

"A lot of our vets when they come back, have PTSD and have suffered such severe trauma in their lives, that they really have a hard time reconnecting with others," she said.  "We use the horses to help them reconnect to how they feel on the inside."

"That gives the veterans an opportunity to relax, reconnect with what they feel, and then to move on to the real world."

Clifford said participants are also referred to them by therapists and doctors.

"The horse can work on whatever you're trying to achieve.  If your goal is maybe building upper body strength or muscle or hand-eye control," she said.

Karen Johnson's 7-year-old daughters, Anna and Rachel, have been Horsepower participants for four years.

"They were born at 27 weeks.  They were in the hospital for three months and they just struggled hard and had a lot to overcome," said Johnson.

Because Anna and Rachel were premature, their core muscles and core balance were a major weakness for them.  

"They have to progress through all the stages of development, but they don't have the same muscle tone and ability, in which to do that," said Johnson.

Johnson said her daughters had physical therapy since they were babies, but it was horseback riding that helped them make significant progress.

"It's been really exciting to watch them," she said.

Clifford said they have seen a lot of success stories at Horsepower.

"We've had students that walk or talk for the first time after they ride and it's amazing to see the difference in self-confidence and difference in self-esteem that our students have," said Clifford.
Horsepower already works with schools, group homes and individuals, but they're trying to expand their program by 20 percent.

They're moving to a new 48-acre property, building a barn and walking trails to accommodate new participants.  But the project will cost $1.1 million, so they need money and volunteers to make it possible.

If you'd like to help by buying a raffle ticket or making a donation, you can visit the 7 Degrees of Change Foundation's website.

WFMY News 2

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