By Danielle Rodriguez
A W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Centerpresentation on April 22 outlined ways horses can assist people who suffer from physical and mental disabilities.
Students of all majors gathered over pizza and cookies to gain a better understanding of these various treatments.
As the main presenter, Lauren Tutill, the program director of Green Acres Interactive Therapy in Temecula, informed attendees of the work conducted by GAIT and how the programs have changed the lives of many.
Tutill is experienced in the therapeutic riding industry and has been involved for about 15 years. She started her career at 19 years old by completing an internship at a therapeutic riding center. The experience fueled her desire to help people in need while simultaneously being able to incorporate horses in their healing process.
“I have always been obsessed with horses, and I have always loved helping people,” said Tutill.
Tutill discussed the various programs that GAIT offers and the benefits that come with them. The center’s goal is to “enrich lives by providing physical and emotional therapy through horse and animal interaction.” GAIT offers programs like therapeutic horseback riding, animal interactive therapy and hippotherapy.
Therapeutic riding is meant to improve motor skills of an individual by incorporating rhythmic motion and body contact with the horse. People with conditions like autism can also benefit from this program.
Hippotherapy aids patients through utilizing the horse’s movement to imitate the movement that occurs when a person walks. This program also assists language and fine motor skills.
Another beneficial program GAIT offers is small animal interactive therapy, which is known to relieve stress and anxiety to an individual. This practice is beneficial to developing trust, patience and furthering critical thinking skills.
Tutill also shared the story of Bettina Eistel, a medalist who competed as a rider in the Paralympics. Eistel was born without arms, so she controlled the reigns of the horse with her teeth.
“The doctors actually asked her to not ride, but she continued to do it anyway,” said Tutill. “She is an inspiration to myself and to many.”
Tutill also stressed the importance of not “categorizing the person by their disability.”
“The programs are fairly accessible to people, and each one is tailored to the needs of the individual,” Tutill stated. “It just depends on exactly what the individual wants out of the program.”
After the presentation, guests were invited to tour the grounds of the Arabian Horse Center, which included a viewing of a foal that was born about 12 hours prior to the presentation.
Overall, the event had something to offer to everyone.
“I like that the therapeutic aspects of horseback riding were discussed,” said fifth-year kinesiology student Shantel Rodriguez. “I thought everything was interesting and well-put together.”
Staff at the Arabian Horse Center enjoyed the day as well.
“I am a lifelong Arabian enthusiast who is excited about the opportunity to work with the staff, students and horses,” said Director of the Arabian Horse Center Jeanne Brooks in an email correspondence. “It is a very special place with a fantastic team, beautiful horses and wonderful students.”
Danielle Rodriguez / The Poly Post
Arabian Horse Center
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