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Crossing the Finish Line

How We Can Ride is helping transform lives through equine therapy

Sir Winston Churchill once said, “There’s something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” For most people who do not own a horse, nor are they in the business of horses in general, the typical two minutes spent watching the Kentucky Derby from start to finish just might encompass their annual knowledge of horses for that year. Typically, viewers of this prestigious race also know that the “other two biggies” are the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. But do they know that horses hold the number two spot for exceptional therapy animals, just behind therapy dogs? Apparently, there’s something about a horse’s gait that can be medicinal in helping one’s brain reset over time.

Sports enthusiasts who enjoy tuning in to football throughout the fall wouldn’t think of not watching the Superbowl! But how does one explain the popularity of the 15 million viewers in 2023 of the Kentucky Derby, viewed on NBC and Peacock as the most-watched sporting event since the Super Bowl? It can’t be all about the bonnets that women wear to this event. It must have something to do with gambling on who will be the winner.

I recently had an opportunity to increase my knowledge of a few “winning horses” when I visited We Can Ride in Medina. This organization is a Premier Accredited Equine Assisted Activities and Therapy Center with PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International). We Can Ride operates with the talents of a volunteer Board of Directors, expert staff, credentialed physical and occupational therapists, PATH-certified instructors, dedicated volunteers, and specially trained horses and ponies. Oh, and before I continue, I don’t want to overlook the importance of Billy, the mule, a fan favorite with a big-time personality at We Can Ride! 

According to Erin Larson, spokesperson for We Can Ride, “Seven years ago, this organization relocated from Minnetonka to inside the vacated Mounted Patrol’s Three Rivers Park facility in Medina. With donations from many sources and the help of countless volunteers, the space was transformed to accommodate the needs of this amazing program to provide alternative therapies for children and adults with disabilities. We are both teaching children and adults how to ride horses, as well as providing opportunities for clients to attain better overall wellness with balance, core strengthening, speech, and more,” Erin says.  

Anastasia Henn was searching for alternative therapies for her four-and-a-half-year-old son, Jordan, who suffers from epilepsy. “We started at We Can Ride just this past April 2023. At that time, Jordan could not walk on his own, nor could he speak. He has come so far because of this Hippotherapy. He now can walk, and he can speak a little. After his last session, as we were leaving, Jordan repeated several times, ‘Mama, Papa, Hug!’ After only seven months, he is a stronger and more confident little boy!” says Anastasia.

"It is important for our therapists to know the medical history of each of our clients. There is a fee per client, relative to the program that is the best fit for them. Those fees cover less than 25% of what it costs We Can Ride to run sessions, but the organization wants to ensure everyone who needs their assistance can access it."

"Typically, three volunteers, one therapist and one instructor work with each client per lesson. One person leads the horse, two people walk on each side, the therapist works on targeted goals, and the instructor ensures everyone's safety," says Erin. 

Excellence in anything takes money. One can only imagine how much money it costs to own and maintain a Triple Crown Thoroughbred. Well, it also takes money to offer the incredible programs that We Can Ride provides to our communities. If you wish to volunteer your time or donate a few dollars to help feed these horses, you can send a donation to We Can Ride at PO Box 463, Maple Plain, MN 55359 or donate online at wecanride.org. These incredible horses and staff win races every day! Within the lives of each child and their parents are the hopes and prayers to one day cross the finish line. Perhaps Churchill was right; there is something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a child.

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