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Northeast Louisiana organizations partner for unique children’s therapy

Published: Mar. 25, 2021 at 10:16 PM CDT
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - A northeast Louisiana organization is teaming up with a nonprofit to provide a unique therapy for special needs children.

Building Futures Pediatric Therapy is partnering with Bright Star Ranch to offer their kids hippotherapy, a type of therapy that involves activities with horses.

Ayden Blunschi, who has Cerebral Palsy, says he’s enjoyed the three years he’s spent at Bright Star with his favorite horse Biker and the staff.

“They have helped me they’ve helped me so much. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Blunschi says. Since his first session, he says his range of motion has improved in his legs and arms among other improvements. “I couldn’t do this without the staff at Bright Star, the volunteers. It’s just It’s fantastic.”

“It’s something new and exciting. I mean, everybody loves horses,” says Jennifer Reeves, Building Futures CEO.

“It’s a great reward, you know, for the kids,” Building Futures CFO Wendy Petrus adds. “It gets them outside of your clinic room, and it gets them out into a more natural setting, and they can be kids and move then and interact with animals. That’s amazing.”

Reeves says the lessons learned in the clinic translate to the great outdoors. As occupational therapists, they work with fine motor skills and sensory regulation. “Well, the kids are going to be grooming the horses and tacking the horses and doing their buckles and things like that. That’s going to work on their fine motor skills.”

Debbie Chunn, executive director of Bright Star Ranch, says the experience for the kids is fun, so “they don’t really know it’s therapy sometimes, but we just enjoy doing it.”

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Through hippotherapy, Chunn says they “can help with people with Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and a number of other disabilities.”

She says hippotherapy provides what a lot of clients need which “is the movement that a horse can give to them that mimics a human’s movement. So, if they have problems with hip or leg issues or weakness, the movement that they feel on a horse’s back is very much the same as us moving our own muscles.” Because of that, Chunn says they’ve seen great improvements in strength and ability.

They’ve also seen other improvements in kids. “If we have a nonverbal client, sometimes we’ll hear their first word on a horse, because it just prompts them to be in a natural environment and be freer to not feel like everybody’s watching them or that it’s a test of any kind,” Chunn adds.

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“We’ve also seen people be able to walk and take their first steps after being on a horse with movement like that.”

Chunn notes the social improvements they see in other settings like home and school where the kids are calmer and react better. Parents, take notice of the growth as well, which is a positive for them to see in their children.

You can visit the Bright Star Ranch website to learn more about their services. You can visit their Facebook page here or call them at (318) 282-9908.

You can also visit the Building Futures Pediatric Therapy website or Facebook page to learn more about what they offer or call them at (318) 388-8414.

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