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Hope and healing with horses at therapeutic riding centers

8 year old Promise Brown pats her therapy horse at Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding centre

On a sunny summer day, 14-year-old Julianna Lupacchino is riding a horse on a Fallston farm. At first glance, the scene seems like nothing special — Harford County is horse country, after all — but at Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding, the occasion is very special indeed; Julianna more frequently uses a wheelchair.

Julianna is one of 23 therapeutic riding clients at Chesapeake, where trained staff, volunteers and medical professionals use horses to facilitate physical and mental therapy. Cathy Schmidt, executive director of Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding, explains that the horses provide a fun emotional outlet for riders and that the gait of the horse mimics the human gait, providing consistent movement that helps riders strengthen muscles.

“Therapeutic riding helps her core, which helps improve her walking,” adds Kelly Lupacchino, Julianna’s mother. Julianna, who is living with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects body movement and muscle coordination, is able to walk with a walker but hopes to graduate to crutches soon, Kelly says. Julianna’s physical therapist is also supportive of the program because the lessons help widen the teenager’s range of motion.

One big advantage of therapeutic riding is that students don’t see it as a chore, as they often do with ordinary physical or occupational therapy.

“Julianna calls this her sport,” her mother explains. “She doesn’t really see it as therapy.”

Read more at The Baltimore Sun

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