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Florida centres offering equine assisted therapy help children with challenges

By Andrea Edde

Michael Fuentes is a 14-year-old boy with Cerebral Palsy, ADHD, developmental disabilities, autistic behaviors and a basically useless right hand. But that doesn’t stop him from holding Oreo, the horse, with both hands while in therapy at Good Hope Equestrian Training Center.

With only a couple of months of horse therapy, Andrea Fuentes, his mother, is pleased with the changes she has seen in Michael.

“His balance has improved, his legs are stronger and he is much more focused,” said Fuentes, 52. “It has also helped his self-esteem as he is very proud of his progress.”

Good Hope Equestrian Training Center, located at 22155 SW 147th Ave. in Miami, is accredited with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, which provides the center with credibility and promotes excellence.

Special needs children struggle to understand how their bodies work in relation to the world around them.  Equine-assisted [horse] therapy helps these children gain muscle strength, self-confidence and social skills.

The place and the people give a sense of peace, Betty Joyce, a volunteer at GHETC, said.

“When the children are on the horse, they are set free,” Joyce said. “It becomes their passion.”

. . . “The change you see in the children is amazing . . .Some kids come here with no speech, and by the third session, they start saying, ‘Mommy, Mommy, look at me’.  It is a feeling I can’t explain.”

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