Local horses help those with disabilities in a unique way

NESBIT, Miss. — Horses here in the Mid-South are helping those with disabilities like Jonathan Short in a unique way.

The 38-year-old has the time of his life riding horses at Southern Reins in Nesbit, Mississippi. He has limited verbal ability, but his joy is easy to understand.

"This is where the magic happens because every single lesson we are watching miracles happen," said Astrid French.

Thanks to a nearly $6,000 grant from the Christopher and Diana Reeve Foundation, Jonathan and 12 to 15 other SRVS clients get to participate in Equine Therapy.

"We really wanted to provide this therapy to for some of the people that have more significant disabilities and are in our intermediate care facilities and may not have the benefit of getting out in the community like some of our more able bodied peers."

There are two programs at the camp. Barn Therapy allows clients to care for the horses. Therapeutic Riding gets them on the horses for some fun.

"This isn't typical because the people receiving the riding lessons today have cerebral palsy or a significant disability."

The Equine Therapy Camp is two 10-week sessions. Jonathan clearly has affection for "Oatie," the bay quarter horse he's been riding, but other clients who don't have the physical abilities that Jonathan has are benefiting too.

"People that have weakened torsos and that use wheelchairs are getting on horses and are staying erect for 20 minutes and then the next time 30 minutes."

French said Equine Therapy is transforming the lives of their clients.

"We see people that are non verbal that are laughing and smiling, and we've never seen that before."

Whether they are caring for or riding the horses, the therapy has given all of them confidence to take life by the reins and experience as much of it as possible.