Therapy Program Takes Off

By: Jessica Dealy Email
By: Jessica Dealy Email

Gaits to Greatness is a therapeutic horse riding class for children with disabilities,

Dr. Marian Swindell and two of her assistant directors finally finished the complex schedule that will keep fifty special needs students busy for four weeks worth of therapeutic horseback riding.

"The program has grown by leaps and bounds," said Swindell. "We started with nine children; now we have two hundred. We are expanding it to include elementary and middle school children. We are reaching out to children from the Wesley House, and eventually, Hope Village."

Gaits to Greatness has also expanded enough to offer equine therapy to medically fragile children.

Over 1,000 special needs children live in Lauderdale County. An overwhelming number of them want to know where to sign up for Dr. Swindell's program. The once small nonprofit suddenly transformed into a major organization.

"We made a schedule. Decided how many students we could take and bought a lot of supplies, as you can see," said Brandi Smith, assistance director. "We did a lot of organizing. It took a lot of time, but I think it will all be worth it in the end."

Just last year the program had only two bins worth of equipment that was used to entertain children while they were not on a horse. This year the equipment has grown ten-fold and it includes fifteen new riding helmets that are all safety-certified.

The program is expanding so quickly that it may soon outgrow it's current classroom.

"We love the Lauderdale County Ag Center, but they have events they have to set up for and break down for," said Swindell. "We may end up trying to find other sources where we can do this."

As it stands now, classes will be held once a week at the Ag Center for the next twelve weeks.

The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association says there are close to 700 of these kinds of facilities nationwide. They employ about 3,500 instructors, who are assisting 40,000 children annually.

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