Improving Lives Exceptionally
Imagine you are the parent of a child with developmental disabilities. You have been told your child will probably never walk, talk, or live a productive life. If you are like most parents, first you cry, then you get mad, then you fight. You fight for every chance to turn that diagnosis around and give your child hope for a brighter future. Nestled in a pretty valley between Washington and Union there is a place where individuals with developmental disabilities including autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome, and other motor, sensory and attentional disabilities find that hope. Starting at age 2, individuals with a wide variety of special needs achieve things no one thought possible . . . on the back of a horse.
Exceptional Equestrians of Missouri Valley, Inc. is a volunteer-based, not-for-profit organization that provides enjoyable, affordable therapeutic horsemanship experiences that develop and strengthen mind, body and spirit to over 100 individuals a week. For 23 years, EEMV has been helping those with special needs by providing them with one of the greatest tools ever......the horse. The benefits of horseback riding are as numerous as the types of disabilities and conditions served. Research shows that people who participate in equine assisted activities and therapies experience physical, emotional and cognitive rewards. The three-dimensional, rhythmical motion of the horse's movement stimulates the muscles and central nervous system of the rider, thus providing great therapeutic effects for those with physical disabilities. For individuals with cognitive or emotional disabilities, the unique relationship formed with the horse can lead to increased confidence, patience and self-esteem.
The goal at Exceptional Equestrians is to foster independence while providing a safe, caring environment. We provide trained horse handlers and sidewalkers to maximize each rider's success. There are five regular programs offered at EEMV as well as three summer day camps for a variety of ages and abilities. The regular programs include:
- Traditional Therapeutic Riding enables clients to improve a variety of life skills such as following directions, working with others, or improving their posture.
- Equine Assisted Occupational Therapy including speech therapy.
- Developmental Vaulting uses specially designed handles to allow the rider to perform a variety of gross-motor movements while on the horse's back.
- Interactive Vaulting, which was inspired by the Olympic sport, allows for a group of up to four individuals to work together to perform a number of gross-motor tasks both on the horse and on the ground. Interactive vaulting facilitates peer-to-peer development and physical strength, flexibility and coordination.
- Heroes on Horseback offers therapeutic riding to disabled United States Veterans.
While there are seven paid employees at Exceptional Equestrians, the programs offered are largely dependent on volunteers. It takes 90 volunteers a week to provide the support and assistance needed for riders of all ages to complete the 30- to 60-minute programs offered at EEMV. Volunteers complete a training that covers emergency procedures, scheduling, basic horse knowledge and barn rules. The training session includes an opportunity to participate in a mock class, giving the volunteers a hands-on opportunity to experience side-walking. Those interested in volunteering at Exceptional Equestrians can register on the website: http://www.eemv.org/volunteer-training-registration.html.