Local not-for-profit uses horses to help children diagnosed with developmental disabilities

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CARMEL, Ind. (WTHR) — Occupational and physical therapy can be tough.

But one local organization has made it easier for kids to deal with thanks to the help of some horses.

Children's TherAplay is a nonprofit organization that offers occupational and physical therapy treatment to children diagnosed with developmental disabilities.

The formal term for this type of treatment is Hippotherapy, which is the purposeful manipulation of equine movement to engage sensory, neuromotor and cognitive systems to achieve functional outcomes.

"What were hoping to accomplish with these sessions is independence ... milestones. And their doing that. Kids are taking their first steps because of their treatment at Children's TherAplay. They're saying words that their parents thought they might never communicate," Executive Director of Children's TherAplay, Kathy Pelletier said.

A horses movement simulates the same movement in the human pelvis, which is why the therapy works.

Employees, volunteers and thirteen horses (and ponies) are dedicated to the 181 children who come there. Some children start visiting TherAplay as early as 18 months old. Kids "phase out" of the program at age 13.

The kids not only ride the horses around the arena sitting face forward, but backwards, on their hands and knees and some even standing. And each kid is paired with the horse that will help him or her achieve their goals.

For many of them, it's not therapy, it's time they get to spend having fun.

To learn more about Children's TherAplay or to become a volunteer, click here.