Hearts and Hooves

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The Cleveland County Hearts and Hooves program was started in 1999 because a parent of a child with a disability saw a need in the community. Hearts and Hooves provides a unique therapeutic horseback riding program to over 45 special needs students in North Shelby, NC. Hearts and Hooves is registered with the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA), and operators are working toward national accreditation.

Research shows that students who participate in therapeutic riding can experience physical, emotional and mental rewards. Because horseback riding gently and rhythmically moves the rider’s body in a manner similar to a human gait, riders with physical disabilities often show improvement in flexibility, balance and muscle strength.

Participation has increased vocabulary for some, as well as social skills, and helps develop gross and fine motor skills. Communication skills also improve, as the children learn to follow simple directions doing an activity they enjoy. Children with autism respond best to visual communication, and on riding days, they are shown a picture of a horse or of the horse arena on the school grounds.