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Leander horse riding center helping more people overcome disabilities thanks to grant

Blue Cross Blue Shield gave Equine Rehabilitation Central Texas a $60,000 grant.

LEANDER, Texas — Thanks to a large grant, a horse riding center in Leander is able to use its animals to help more people overcome their disabilities.

Over the summer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas gave Equine Rehabilitation Central Texas a $60,000 grant to help families that wouldn't be able to normally afford to join its therapeutic riding program.

We caught up with one family who said that a little horse therapy can go a long way.

“What do you tell your horse, Tim,” the trainer said.

“Walk on,” Tim Duffy responded.

Duffy has been riding a horse twice a week for 5 years. His mother Mary brings him to Equine Rehabilitation Central Texas because it helps with his autism.

Credit: KVUE

“It's done so much for my son,” said Mary Duffy, Tim’s mom. “I can't even begin. I'll start crying.”

“Some of the children with autism say their first words on back of the horse,” said Lisa Rivers, founder and executive director of Equine Rehabilitation Central Texas.

Rivers showed KVUE around the eight acres where children and adults with disabilities, as well as those who've experienced trauma, find healing and make progress by riding horses. Turns out, there's a science behind it.


Equine riding facility for people with disabilities needs funding to move to new location

“The movement of the horse produces oxytocin in the body and that's why so many people get off the horse and say, ‘Oh, I feel so good. Oh, I feel so peaceful,’ and just like, ‘I’m OK,'” said Rivers.

In the main arena with trainers by their side, riders learn academics, life skills and language development. 

Mary said the therapeutic riding program has helped her son improve his posture and speech development.

“Oh, yes, yes, definitely,” said Mary. “They do a lot of games where he has to involve, you know, speaking and answering questions and riding on the trail. He loves the trail, so he'd definitely say trail. What do you tell your horse when you want it to go? You say 'walk on.’”

RELATED: Daybreak Adventures: Of course we're riding horses in Bastrop County

This program isn't only benefiting riders. Many of these horses were neglected, abandoned, or abused. Now, they have a new purpose.

“Our byline is, 'People and horses helping each other,' because we help horses and help them have another life and then they, in turn, help the people,” said Rivers.

For people like Tim, it's about making progress and having some fun along the way.

The program is called Hearts Therapeutic Riding and also helps veterans. Thanks to the grant, this center is now serving 13 new families and they're looking to help more.

You can find more information on the program and learn how to apply online.

WATCH: Horse therapy center needs new home


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