BUTTE — A program in Butte has been using horses as a therapy tool to help special children for the past 30 years.
The Kissock Horse Center has been hosting the Butte Special Riders Club to help children overcome disabilities.
“They don’t know that they’re having physical therapy, they’re having fun,” said volunteer Barb Gray.
Glen Southergill has had his 8-year-old daughter, Sarah, involved in this program for five years.
He said she was speech delayed when she started the program.
“Towards the end of the first session, she started singing “Dora the Explorer” to her horse, right? And she made a point to start singing. She just relaxed and was smiling,” said Southergill.
Volunteers say parents are amazed at the positive changes they see in their children.
“Mom came in and she was crying, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, what did we do?’ And she said ‘No, you don’t understand. She said a full sentence.’ And I just started bawling,” said Gray.
The program uses older horses with gentle temperaments that enjoy interacting with the children.
“You’ll find that their moods start to change when you put that child on their back. They maybe stand a little wider, their eye gets a little softer, they’re very protective of the kids that are up there,” said volunteer Stella Capoccia.
The riding is real therapy, because in order to ride it takes balance and core strength and a lot of muscles that the kids normally wouldn’t use.
“The most joyful thing is see them enjoy the therapeutic part of it and learn to be more balanced, easier to step up, step down, turn, we do exercises on the horse and it’s fun,” said the owner of Kissock Horse Center, Joani Kissock.
Tina King said her autistic son doesn’t communicate much, but he reacts in a positive way to the program.
“It’s hard to describe but he tells me that it makes his heart tingle when he gets to come and he’s done and it makes my heart beat with joy,” said King.
The program continues throughout the summer and people can sign up children at the group's Facebook page.