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Program lets special needs people get therapy through horses

By JOSH MORGAN, The Greenville NewsMay 26, 2019

ANDERSON, S.C. (AP) — Lisa Hartman of Anderson got her first pony when she was 13 years old. Little did she know that the bond she formed in those early years would lead to the formation of S.H.A.R.E., a therapeutic horse riding program for children and adults with special needs.

“Having horses all my life, I never really knew I was in therapy.” Hartman said. “It was more than just having a horse to be able to ride. It gave me that self-esteem and that confidence and the ability to make wise decisions.”

Hartman says horse riding is beneficial to the students cognitively, physically and emotionally. Throughout her 12-week program, students run through a course featuring a series of obstacles with the help of Lisa and her volunteers.

Students develop deep bonds with the horses as they advance through the program, learning how to groom and take care of them when they aren’t on the saddle. Diego Popa, 9, often combs through the hair of his horse with his fingers and loves the feel of the hair on his face. Madison Young, 10, often puts her ear up to a horse’s side to listen to the rumblings of its stomach. Sarah Wright, 29, always says “please” before issuing any command to her horse; at the end of each lesson, she says “I love you” to her horse, to Hartman and to the volunteers who help out during the day.

Some of the students from this year’s class also have a unique opportunity to take the skills they learned and use them to compete in the Special Olympics South Carolina Equestrian Show in Aiken — a first for the S.H.A.R.E. program.

“We’re going to have a great time. We’re going to be excited,” Hartman said.

“We’re going to try to stay balanced and focused on what we’re there for, which is to compete in two different events, and come home as winners, whether we come home with a ribbon or a trophy, or placed to go on farther than that. I don’t know. But we’re already winners.”

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Information from: The Greenville News, http://www.greenvillenews.com

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