A therapeutic horseback program is helping children with physical and mental challenges make important improvements.
The Horses with Wings program at Jensen Woods camp, just outside of Timewell, Illinois uses horses to create and improve muscle memory in children with physical challenges.
Co-founder Terri Houser says that the program can serve all sorts of children.
"We help anyone from autism, to down syndrome, cerebral palsy any other mental issues," Houser said. "Even kids with OCD types of issues."
Houser started the program with two friends Lynn Trone and Kay Crum. All three share a love for horses and an even deeper love for children.
They went to Corinth, Texas to train at the SpiritHorse Therapeutic Center and now for 12 weeks in the summer they help parents and children like Jenna and Carter Settles change their lives.
Jenna Settles says Carter has a mild case of cerebral palsy and did not start walking until he was three years old.
When she heard about the Horses with Wings program she decided to give it a try.
"When he was younger there wasn't a lot of outside activities he could do since he wasn't walking yet," Settles said. "When I heard about this I thought, "It's a way to get him outside, get his legs moving, get him strengthened up and its done great.""
You might be surprised to learn that maintaining balance on a horse helps kids with mental challenges.
"It builds a neural pathway between the brain," Houser said. "So it just helps cognitive function. It also helps with any kind of a brain issue because because the brain has to work harder while your balancing."
For kids like Carter, the movement of the horse mimics the way humans walk which in turn teaches the children the right way to walk.
"This teaches their muscles to move in the correct manner and it creates muscle memory so when they get off the horse, their legs will still remember how to do the correct movement." Houser said.
Horses with Wings started about a year ago to help children with physical or mental challenges between the ages of 3 to 17.
This free program runs for about 12 weeks between June and August at the Jensen Woods Campgrounds .
Terri Houser says that they are need of volunteers. If you are interested just click here .