RIO GRANDE, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Whether confined to a wheelchair or confined within their own minds, children with special needs often battle loneliness and self-esteem issues.
Throw a horse into the equation, though, and all worries and limitations seem to disappear. It's a special horse therapy that's creating exceptional results.
Jared McCarty spends most of his day rolling along in a wheelchair. He was born prematurely, and that led to cerebral palsy. The 10-year-old has limited use of his muscles and limited mobility until he comes out to Rio Valley Stables in Rio Grande.
"I get to get out of my wheelchair," Jared said.
"It helps build his strength of his core, and I’m hoping he will walk like Caleb," said Janet McCarty, who is Jared's mother. "Caleb used to take horse therapy for years and now he can walk on his own."
Caleb Alderigi also has cerebral palsy. He's 22 now. But he’s been riding horses since he was 3. His mother believes the horse therapy he received in another area is the reason he's walking on his own.
"It really builds strength, and the horse has the same gait as the human, which teaches you how to balance," said Nancy Alderigi, Caleb’s mother.
While horse therapy is nothing new, it is new to southeast Ohio. The combined efforts of Julie Short and her family and the Rio Valley Stables owner, Patricia Slayton, turned a dream into a dream come true.
"I don’t know what we’d do without them," Slayton said. "They really came in and opened a whole new world of possibilities, and we’re so grateful."
Carlin Short has autism. Her diagnosis sparked HOPE (Holding Onto Positive Endings) Intervention --a non-profit autism resources agency they started more than five years ago. The horse therapy is another program that's changing lives.
"We had some families out here a few weeks ago, and the parents were scared thinking their children would never wear a helmet or get on a horse," Short said. "There were lots of tears because they saw so much change in their children."
The special needs horse therapy program needs major community support to operate. Although it's new, the financial obligations are tremendous.
The Rio Valley Stables is holding a giant yard sale on from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 5, at the stables to raise money for the program and ensure as many people as possible can benefit.
You can also help by eating at the Bob Evans Restaurant in Rio Grande on from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday, June 7. Fifteen percent of all proceeds during that time will be given to the special needs horse therapy program.
The stables would also like to thank Ray McKinnis, Bob Evans Farm Manager and Kris Williams, the Assistant Farm Manager for their support and generosity in helping Rio Valley Stables get up and running.
Julie and Scott Short also would like to thank current and former AEP employees: Carl Wamsley, Tommy Tallent, Steve Hague and Terry Albright for their tremendous efforts fundraising so HOPE Intervention could buy equipment and pay for several special needs children and adults to participate in the horse therapy program.
If you'd like more information about Rio Valley Stables, you can call 740-245-5342.
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