It was Sir Winston Churchill who once said, "There's something about the outside of a horse that's good for the inside of a man."
That statement proves true at the Ride With Pride Horsemanship School and Therapy Center in Southlake, where you can see the joy horses bring to even the youngest riders participating in Horse Adventure Camp.
It's the creation of Doreen Bruton — she is the head cowgirl in charge.
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"We are here because it's the Horse Adventure Camp, and Amy's Wish Kids are our kids that ride with special needs," Bruton said.
Kids like 5-year-old Alya. Her parents, Solaman and Mariam Rasul, said she has a neurological disorder that is slowly taking away her motor skills and her ability to speak.
Alya has been going to Ride With Pride Horsemanship School for equine therapy for five weeks. Her parents said her core strength and coordination continue to improve.
"When we were working with Alya last week, we were trying to get her to wave," Bruton said. "Trying to get her to wave is a hard deal. Last week, for the first time, we got her to wave, and you saw today it was her second time [to wave]. So we're making great strides with her just communicating with us and the horse."
Alya's parents were equally impressed with her progress.
"She's really gotten physically stronger," Solaman said. "Like going up and down the stairs — she's able to do it a lot easier."
At Horse Adventure Camp, children go on horseback rides around a sensory trail where they can stop at each letter of the alphabet to look at or touch the stuffed animals hanging on the fence.
Campers also make the horses popsicles, then give the treats to the horses as gifts. They also do daily chores like bathing and grooming. Nearly all of the camp's activities combine movement with the magic of horses.
Thanks to Bruton's non-profit, Amy's Wish With Wings, all of the children with special abilities who ride at the camp don't pay a thing.
"We're so grateful," Mariam said.
"It's as if we've got our daughter back," Solaman said.
Like the chandelier hanging on the horse farm's maple tree, the Rasul family found a glimmer of hope on horseback, after an uncertain diagnosis.
Proving Sir Winston Churchill right once again, "There is something about the outside of a horse that's good for the inside of a man," or in this case, a little girl.
Bruton said there are around 20 equine therapy facilities in North Texas and they all need volunteers and funding to pay for the horses (including hay and veterinarian bills). She said some have had to close because it can be so expensive to keep them running.
Here's more information from Amy’s Wish with Wings:
"Our mission is to provide equine assisted activities for children with special needs. This may include but is not limited to children with autism, Down syndrome, brain injuries, cerebral palsy, victims of abuse, vision impaired, selective mutism and many others. These children benefit from the movement of the horse to stimulate the rider's vestibular system as it responds to balance signals, voluntary movement and speech. The horse provides an alternative therapy for children to build self-esteem, learn sequential tasks & stay on tasks, empathy & promote stronger gross and fine motor skills.
Doreen Bruton founded Amy's Wish With Wings Charity in 2011 to give Amy Stefanko her wings. Due to complications from leukemia Amy had to learn how to speak and walk again. Amy started therapeutic riding to help her recover. Amy's wish was to learn to ride independent of a lead line with side walkers and under Doreen's care and instruction she achieved her wish! Amy continues to flourish today in the program held at Ride with Pride Horsemanship School in Southlake, Texas.
Doreen Bruton, has been teaching children with special needs for 38 years. She is a CHA instructor as well as a CHA IRD instructor and is PATH certified.
Amy's Wish Kids compete at the Equestrian Special Olympics every Spring. We will also be compete at the Chisholm Challenge held at the Ft Worth Stock Show in January."