Pony Power Puts a Unique Spin on Therapy for Children with Serious Illnesses or Developmental Disabilities and Their Family Members
Children and their family members who receive services through Valley Home Care, including the Butterflies Program for children with serious or life-limiting illnesses, are benefiting from a unique recreational opportunity with therapeutic benefits offered not in a medical office or home-care setting, but on a fully accessible farm in Mahwah.
The children, their siblings and their parents recently wrapped up a weeklong summer extended-day program at Pony Power Therapies that included horse-assisted ground activities for children and parents, as well as riding sessions for the children.
During the therapeutic horseback riding sessions, riders are paired with a team of trained volunteers and certified instructors who tailor the riding experience to the abilities and needs of the individual rider. Therapeutic horseback riding at Pony Power provides both physical and emotional benefits to children, such as increased strength and muscle development as well as fostering feelings of self-confidence and pride. Importantly, the project also allows siblings to enjoy a range of activities together regardless of limitations. The parents also spend time with the horses engaged in activities that encourage them to work on their own self-care and to serve as a source of support for each other.
Riding can help increase strength and muscle development and foster feelings of self-confidence and pride. The young riders work on balance, body positioning, communication, critical thinking and partnership skills. Most importantly, the children enjoy a unique, shared experience with their brothers and sisters, as it’s one of few recreational activities that is completely inclusive, regardless of a person’s limitations. When engaging with horses during ground activities, children and parents learn how to stay present and focused; they experience life in the moment without the worry of usual stresses or concerns. Plus, tailored sessions help parents build upon current skills and develop new skills for handling the emotional difficulties that can come from caring for an ill child.
For five years, Pony Power Therapies and The Valley Hospital have partnered to provide integrative health and wellness programming to the children and families of Valley Home Care. From therapeutic riding sessions for patients and siblings during the school year to week-long summer programming for families to horse-assisted ground activities for Valley staff, the organization’s comprehensive and holistic approach has empowered hundreds of patients and their “teams” — parents and professional caregivers. Valley’s financial support of the program allows Pony Power to continue facilitating Valley families’ physical and emotional growth, as well as introducing the power of ponies to adults battling serious illnesses.
Photo Caption: Shown at Pony Power’s’ Therapeutic Riding Center are (left to right) Wendy Lupo, Director of Development, Pony Power Therapies; Judy Tamburro, Volunteer, Valley Home Care; Dana Spett, MSW, Founder & Executive Director Pony Power Therapies; and Dyana Thompson, Clinical Manager, Maternal and Child Health and Butterflies Palliative Care & Hospice Program, Valley Home Care.