Horse therapy program for special needs children loses only horse

MURRELLS INLET, SC (WBTW) - The Myrtle Beach Therapeutic Riding and Vaulting club is one of few local horse therapy programs for children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. The program's only specially trained horse, Baloo, recently passed away.

The riding club is now raising money to buy another horse to provide that same support for dozens of children with special needs. "He really really made an impact on her and touched her in a way I've never seen," said Kelly Hayes. Finding the right therapy for her 5-year-old daughter Mia's sensory processing disability hasn't been easy, but when Mia started riding Baloo, "it's given her confidence that she certainly didn't have before. She connected with him," Hayes said.

Stacy Paterchak's 5-year-old son Jacob has autism. According to Paterchak, Baloo has helped Jacob make a lot of progress in the last year. "His ability to listen, he's able to communicate differently. His patience. When we first started he didn't want to do anything but ride the horse. Now he's out here grooming the horse and he has particular things that he likes to do," she said.

Program Director Amy Albertson raised Baloo since he was born. She had to have her 10-year-old horse euthanized after he suffered a fit of colic. "He was very patient with the kids. He tolerated all kinds of surprise behaviors and sounds and movements, and was a very good teacher." Two members of the barn have donated their horses to the program in the meantime, but the horses aren't specially trained for therapeutic riding or vaulting. "[Mia] tells me, 'Poncho's not as big as Blue. Poncho won't let me do my dance,'" said Hayes. Albertson adds, "There are a few riders now that aren't able to ride with me because my horses can't tolerate it."

Albertson, Hayes and other parents are now doing all they can to help raise $10,000 for another horse. "I want it more than anything in the world. Not a lot of other things allow them to be in that mode where they have to be 100% focused."

If you would like to help the Myrtle Beach Therapeutic Riding and Vaulting Club raise money for a new horse, click on this link to vote for the non-profit in the Burgeon Legal Group's charity contest. The five charities with the most votes will each win $1,000.

If you'd like to donate to the Myrtle Beach Therapeutic Riding and Vaulting Club directly, head to their Facebook page for their contact information.


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