Oklahoma therapy horses help individuals overcome challenges
ENID, Okla. (AP) — In the southeast corner of Enid, Bennie’s Barn Equine Therapy and Riding Facility is described by many families as the place where miracles happen.
“After facing years of physical and mental challenges when it comes to caring for loved ones, these families went searching for ways to create a better quality of life and they found their answer at the barn,” said Executive Director Chip Baker. “One family in particular is the Talley family. Maj. Pete Talley and his wife, Amanda, moved to Enid in 2015 when Pete was assigned to Vance Air Force Base.”
“We didn’t know much about this town when we moved here and especially had no idea how much this community would bless our family,” Amanda Talley said. “It’s a blessing that will forever change our lives and our son’s life.”
The Talley’s oldest son, Peter, became that “miracle” that has inspired so many around him,” Baker said.
“Back in 2010, and at 18-months old, Peter was labeled with a global developmental delay while Pete was deployed in Afghanistan,” he said. “Peter was nonverbal, had low muscle tone and weak motor skills. For the past 7 years, he has been involved in speech, occupational and physical therapy to improve his ability to speak, focus and increase his strength.”
“Since that day, all I can think about is how I, or someone, can help him succeed that hour, day, week, month,” Amanda said. “I think about whether he will ever become a functioning adult.”
Upon arriving in Enid, Peter could barely grip a pencil, had poor coordination and focus, and his speech was limited to one- to two-syllable sounds, Amanda said. Peter had experience in equine therapy in the past, but didn’t have enough time to see any results before the family moved to the next assignment, the Enid News & Eagle reported.
“We tried (a therapy ranch) before and didn’t see much progress with him while spending a fortune,” she said. “Bennie’s Barn and the Air Warrior Courage Foundation made it possible for Peter to receive this life-changing therapy for free.”
After being able to spend the past three years riding at Bennie’s Barn, the results with Peter, now 9 years old, have been astounding, Baker said.
“Peter started to become that independent child the Talley’s were praying for,” Baker said. “He is now speaking in complete sentences, can ride a bike and throw a ball, and most importantly, communicate with those around him.”
“Hearing our son talk is like night and day from when we first got here,” Pete said. “We know there were many factors that contributed to his growth, but Bennie’s Barn was that catalyst. Now, his favorite thing to do is sing the national anthem while holding an American flag and riding a horse.”
“Our family was so grateful for everything that had happened that we immediately started volunteering at the Barn and throughout the Enid community in order to give back,” Amanda said. “We were so thankful that we had to figure out how to say thank you, so volunteering as much as possible and helping others has been our way of doing just that. It was our three-year ‘Pay It Forward.’”
Peter’s success at the barn became a family affair when his younger siblings became involved. Jacob, 6, and Bridget, 4, came out of their shells once instructor Keith Siragusa got them on the horse with their big brother, Baker said.
Now, all three of the kids look forward to “barn day,” according to Amanda.
When Pete received orders to go to Alabama last summer for 11 months, he and Amanda decided the family would stay behind so Peter could continue therapy in one spot for longer. During their time apart, Peter was re-evaluated and diagnosed with autism and an intellectual disability.
After so many years of not knowing what exactly was causing Peter’s delay, Amanda said knowing this helped shape how to work with him at the Barn as well as at school, home, church and the other therapies he received.
“Finally knowing something about Peter has opened so many doors I never knew existed,” Amanda said. “But, unfortunately, those doors will soon be in another state.”
The Talley’s will move once again this summer, but said Enid and Bennie’s Barn will always hold a special place in their hearts.
“We are so grateful for everything that has happened to our family and our son here in Enid, America,” Pete said. “The future is looking so incredible because of the miracles we witnessed here, both in our son and in our own spirit of community.”
“The Talley family will be so incredibly missed by so many at Bennie’s Barn and we want to wish them the best and are so thankful to call them part of the family,” Baker said.
Many families come from all over Oklahoma, as well as other states, some traveling hundreds of miles a day, to receive therapy lessons for their loved ones, Baker said. When your family is given such grim outcomes, you go out looking for this miracle, and Bennie’s Barn has been just that for so many.
“Not only are children helped here, but so are our veterans,” Baker said. “Almost all of the 30 horses at Bennie’s Barn were rescued from abuse or neglect, as well as from slaughter houses. Once the horses get their second chance through the love, training and nurturing, they become therapy horses. The unspoken bond that is created with them is such a beautiful thing.
“The horses and our instructor, Keith Siragusa, really make these miracles happen for so many each and every day.”
Information from: Enid News & Eagle, http://www.enidnews.com