Healing Horses

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. Adam Wolf relies on wheels to get around. The nine-year-old has cerebral palsy. One of a set of quadruplets, doctors warned he'd never even sit up.

"Adam's legs were so tight, we couldn't get them apart to even sit on the horse," mother Ali Wolf told Ivanhoe. "It took several sessions before he stopped screaming."

Soon, hippotherapy began to make sense. A horse's pelvis moves in 3-D motions just like a human walks, stimulating balance, strength and coordination.

"His body was learning, essentially, how to walk, and he had never felt any of those feelings," Ali said. "He'd been using a wheelchair his whole life."

Therapists position riders sideways to work trunk muscles. Riding backwards improves balance, and standing builds coordination.

"Rather than telling someone, 'Sit up straight, sit up straight,' your pelvis tips," Dana Butler-Moburg, executive director of the J.F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., told Ivanhoe. "You have to sit backwards. You have to hold yourself up as the horse moves through space."

Three-year-old Rachel -- born with a neuromuscular disease -- now stands, babbles and takes steps.

"She's such a different baby and person," mother Jane Varriano told Ivanhoe. "She has a chance now."

If Adam is a sign of what lies ahead, Rachel's future looks very bright.


Dana Green
J. F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center
San Juan Capistrano, CA
(949) 240-8441, ext. 109
(800) 369-RIDE (nationwide)


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