Horsin' around with Handi-Riders

Feb 23, 2016 11:59 AM by David McVicker

A therapy group in Oroville is helping their clients the way they know best...through a little horse play.

Handi-Riders uses horse riding lessons as therapy for the physically, developmentally and emotionally challenged.

Parents and clients say the therapy they receive has proven to be very effective in in helping them.

Paul Moreno, parent of a student at Handi-Riders said the therapy has done wonders for his son Harry.

“He liked it immediately,” Moreno said. “He was very comfortable on the horse and it really has taught him to have more confidence with the animal as well as being able to follow the commands as well. He's autistic and this is good therapy for him."

McFarland said most of the students at Handi-Riders go through a program that can range anywhere from seven – 12 or more weeks. She said the program has helped children with the most severe cases of autism, all the way to adults dealing with serious physical injuries – all of which were able to make significant recoveries from their work with the horses at Handi-Riders.

McFarland said the autism spectrum particularly benefit from working with the horses because they tend to have difficult issues with basic communication.

There has been so many successful, documented cases of people with autism learning to speak to people and feeling less, I don't want to say claustrophobic in that way, but it kind of is,” she said. “There's less of that barring here because they can learn to use that as a medium."

Handi-Riders has fallen on some hard times recently. McFarland said they are having particular trouble with the next couple months as one of their larger fundraisers fell through due to an unfortunate death of a board member within the organization they were planning on co-hosting the fundraiser.

Funding is a crucial element for Handi-Riders. Besides the expenses of caring for the eight therapy horses at Handi-Riders, many of their students are on scholarships so they can continue to be a part of the program.

“We understand that many of the clients we get are dealing with enormous medical bills because of their various conditions,” she said. “We want to be able to provide the relief of getting to work with the horses for as many kids and adults as we can so we try to provide as many scholarships to as many people as we can.”

McFarland said the work the horses do is particularly taxing on the horses themselves. Besides being able to accomodate more clients of Handi-Riders, McFarland said they wanted to add a couple more horses to their stable to allow for the horses to get more breaks in between working with clients.

Besides just working with children and adults with disabilities, McFarland said they are working to expand their program to veterans with Post-Tramatic Stress Disorder.

“We’re bringing two more horses to accomdate more students,” she said, “but we just need to find an instructor who knows more than I do about PTSD.”

Handi-Riders has a few scholarship fundraisers coming up in the near future, including a golf tournament and silent auction. McFarland said funds raised would be used donations to help keep the students they assist on scholarship and add more funded spots in the future.

If Handi-Riders were to reduce it's capacity or close down, it would be foal. Visit their website and see how you can help stop this potential nightmare.


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