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Equine-assisted therapy centre opens in St-Lazare

Equine-assisted therapy centre opens in St-LazareA new equestrian centre opening in St-Lazare offers more than just riding lessons. Instructors at Enfants en Équi-Libre are certified therapists who incorporate horses in their physical and occupational therapy.
Founders Devon O’Farrell and Joannie Chiasson specialize in equine-assisted therapy for children and youth with motor challenges, attention issues, learning disabilities or other special needs. They say the horses help children to be more engaged in therapy, resulting in better outcomes.
“It’s the beauty of being with the horse. Children don’t see it as a treatment,” said Chiasson. “It’s a game, it’s a fun thing to do, so we have more participation.”
Enfants en Équi-Libre offers hippotherapy and therapeutic riding, as well as clinical services including speech therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and animal-assisted therapy. The centre is one of only a handful in Quebec to offer treatment by therapists certified through the American Hippotherapy Association and the Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association.
O’Farrell and Chiasson had been working with clients at a rented barn in Vaudreuil-Dorion, but their business outgrew the space. The spacious new facility in St-Lazare offers both indoor and outdoor riding rings, and is adjacent to equestrian trails.
One of Chiasson’s clients, Martin Soucy, drives almost an hour from Verdun to bring his 12-year-old son Gustave to biweekly therapy sessions, but he said the long drive is worth it. Gustave has spastic cerebral palsy and began hippotherapy at age four. According to Soucy, hippotherapy helped his son build the strength and balance he needed to walk.
“What it did was to strengthen the muscles in his back and that helped him become more stable and to walk too. When he started, he didn’t walk at all,” said Soucy. Four years ago, Gustave began to walk unassisted.