A number of Illinois organizations embrace the words of 19th-century biologist John Lubbock: “There is nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse.”
In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, “animal-assisted therapy can significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue in people with a range of health problems.”
According to Andra Ebert, founder of Heartland Mini Hoofs, therapy pets, such as her American miniature horses Bailey, Winnie and Jasper, provide comfort to groups of people. In contrast, service animals receive special training to meet the needs of one individual with a disability. Along with dogs, the Americans with Disabilities Act now recognizes miniature horses as service animals.
From autistic children to combat veterans, many find healing through therapeutic riding. The nonprofit Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International promotes equine-assisted activities and therapies to help people overcome physical, cognitive and emotional challenges. PATH International members across Illinois, such as Rainbow Riders near Monmouth, use horses to help children and adults with special needs gain coordination, core strength, confidence and more.
Visit pathintl.org to learn more or find a center near you.