LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4) – The healing power of horses is what The Right Step is all about. The nonprofit provides riding lessons for people of all abilities. For one young man in particular, the impact it’s had on his life is shining new light on the importance of riding therapy.
“It’s why I’m here. It just fills my soul. You know? He’s a wonderful little boy. He’s smart and he’s getting to experience life like he ought to as a little boy and that’s really exciting,” ssaid Karin Ostlund, a volunteer with The Right Step.
Ostlund has been volunteering for The Right Step since Damien Tighe was 2. At that time he couldn’t walk or talk.
“In the beginning he couldn’t sit up. As he progressed, the horse helped get his core really strong,” she said.
Fast forward 5 years, and Damien’s progress is inspiring. He is riding on his own. He can tell his horse Smokey, “Woah” and “Walk on” and on Wednesday he showed his instructor how he is learning the names of the grooming tools.
“Curry Comb,” said Damien.
“I mean, we just started working with those brushes last week and he already knows how to use them all and he’s working on how to say all those words,” said instructor Lena Dubensky.
Dubensky is beyond proud of Damien, and while she maintains her excitement while working with him, she says she feels like a little kid watching him.
“I get really excited about the littlest things, so seeing those little tiny progressions in a rider like Damien; I mean truly week to week he jumps from one thing to the next,” she said.
The therapy helps him emotionally and physically. If he misses a lesson, his family says it’s physically noticeable.
“Horses actually have the same skeleton as a human so because of that, it means it’s able to move the same way a human does,” Dubensky continued, “it’s actually able to move a rider’s hips in the exact same way that walking would, which is what helps them learn how to walk. That they can’t necessarily get in just doing physical therapy because the hips can’t move the same way like they can on the horse.”
It also helps to strengthen your core, which has benefits for clients with a wide range of abilities.
“What we’ll try to do, if we have a rider who is struggling with balance, is slowly take away that help. So we’ll give them as much help as they need and then slowly start to take it away so that their bodies will begin to self-correct.”
With the progress Damien is making on a weekly basis, Dubensky has no doubts about what he will be able to accomplish down the road.
“I hope that I get to go to his high school graduation and see him walk across the stage,” she said.
The Right Step says it’s always looking for volunteers. For more information on how to get involved, visit therightstepinc.org.