At Equine Angels Special Therapy Center in Copper Canyon, TX kids are one with a four-legged creature – the horse.
One mother, Gina Gray, who refused to give up on her non-verbal, non-ambulatory son started the program after being misled and undereducated about the prognosis of her child’s condition. The program was founded in April 2000 for her son, Spencer Gray and Gina serves as the program director.
The center is located ten minutes north of Dallas between Lewisville and Denton and offers horseback and aquatic therapy for physically and mentally disabled children.
Spencer’s family gives continuous volunteer labor to the program since it operates at their home and uses many of their family-owned Quarter Horses. There are only two paid staff members.
The organization recently held a fundraiser in October, the Second Annual Sporting Clay.
The facility is licensed by the state and a physical therapist conducts all sessions that are available year-round. Parental participation and education is encouraged and both horseback and aquatic classes are held at one location which is stress-free and fun, focused on abilities. Families are not charged for weekly therapy sessions.
According to the agency’s website, people who have debilitating physical disabilities rarely receive the amount of quality therapy needed during their lifetime for various reasons.
Some of the benefits of the program include exercise, simulated walking, balance and strength, and positive emotions. All sessions are coordinated using the help of three or four well-trained adults.
According to the site, true horseback therapy or “hippo-therapy” is “a treatment modality used by licensed, credentialed health professionals (actual therapists) who have a strong treatment background in posture and movement, neuromotor function and sensory processing, to achieve specific physical goals utilizing the movement of a horse.” During the program staff uses a multitude of horse-oriented activities to contribute to physical, emotional, cognitive, and social well-being of people with disabilities. Horses are specially trained and selected to work with these individuals.
Aquatic Therapy uses the buoyancy, warmth, and variable resistance of water for patients to get exercise of their weakened or spastic muscles. Water provides an atmosphere reducing body weight by up to 90 percent depending on the depth immersed. The pool and spa at the facility are specially designed for this kind of therapy.
Tim Stevens, who was Volunteer of the Year 2003, came to work for Equine Angels in Feb. 2001, working as a full-time staff member helping with horse care, facility maintenance, and sessions until donations weren’t enough to support his salary. During the past three years he’s been associated with the program as an employee and volunteer.
Daphne Cave, who has been volunteering sine April 2001, said that when she first signed up with the agency she said, “I’m short but I’m willing to do anything I can to help out.”
The center at 410 Orchid Hill Lane may be reached at 940-455-2062.