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The Cedar Creek Riding Center has provided equine therapy since 1987. Equine therapy refers to the remedy provided by horseback riding. The movement of the horse is good for people who have physical or mental disabilities, such as people who use wheelchairs or cannot move their legs.
According to Laura Wacker, an instructor at Cedar Creek Riding Center, the back-and-forth movement of the horse as it walks is very helpful to develop muscles, and the person’s sense of balance improves because the rhythm of the horse’s steps is similar to that of humans. Also, people feel calm on the horse’s back because the warmth of its body and its movement allow them to feel stable. These pleasant emotions help the horse and the disabled person make a good relationship.
Wacker says that some people who come to the therapeutic riding center are unable to take any steps before they come, but most of them can take steps when they leave the center. Also, one woman Wacker met could not lift herself from her wheelchair to her bed, but after taking the lessons, she could move into her bed by herself. Wacker said that it is very rewarding to help people take their first steps.
An instructor at Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center.
Although it can be dangerous around the horses because they are big animals, Wacker says that she never has any accidents because the horses are well trained. She says the horses recognize what they are doing and know that they have to be careful of their riders.
Many volunteers work at the riding center. The Cedar Creek Center has 112 riders and 150 volunteers. In the spring and fall, they have many student volunteers because the University of Missouri has classes that give credit for volunteering, and about 50 students help at the center. In addition, Stephens College has an equine therapy degree program, and Wacker said gets some students from them. However, Columbia College does not have a program related to equine therapy.
Individuals who would like to volunteer can contact the center to find out more. The Cedar Creek Riding Center is located at 4895 E. Highway 163. For more information, call (573) 875-8556 or visit their Web site at cedarcreek.missouri.org.