Therapeutic riding project at Milligan College

Therapeutic riding project at Milligan College

CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. - It's long been known that pets can sometimes be the best medicine for whatever ails you. Therapy dogs are well noted for their effect with patients but horses are a little bit different.

They too are excellent therapy animals for both physical problems as well as emotional ones. Two Milligan College graduate students are currently creating a therapy program with horses to help children with their problems and situations.

horse are big and intimidating while at the same time gentle, and they love attention. "I think horses are very social. They're a very social animal. They make a big impact on a person emotionally and socially," Milligan graduate student Jenny Rose says.

That's why she and a fellow occupational therapy graduate student are currently developing a program that uses horseback riding to help children who are dealing with both physical and emotional problems. "Some of these kids that we're working with come from backgrounds of abuse, maybe a foster home, or just hard situations. I think it's situations like that make it hard to trust people," Rose said.

But you can over time learn to trust your horse and connect with them on a whole other level. All it takes sometimes is a simple little ride.

"We took them for a little trail ride just around, and by the end of it they were all smiles and really excited. They wanted to keep going. Every week has been like that, they just love it and they love the horses. Their confidence has been building in huge ways. That's really neat to see," fellow graduate student Karli Lichtenberger says.

Their field of occupational therapy is all about a holistic approach to helping patients, not only the physical side but the emotional side as well. So what better partner to have than these horses. "Things can have a bigger impact than you ever think that they're going to.  I know I've seen the impact that it's had but I know that there will be an even greater impact that I won't be able to see," Rose said.

"Building that trust with the horses and building a relationship with the horses has been a huge part of this too. And getting to see that is cool and it goes over into their relationships with people too," Lichtenberger added.

The only downside -- they can't take the horses home with them.

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