Horses provide healing therapy for individuals with disabilities

The Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center in Columbia is a safe haven for children and adults with disabilities of all kinds. Each session brings kids and adults with physical, mental and emotional disabilities together to partake in equine therapy.

Equine therapy is treatment that incorporates equine activities and the equine environment. Rehabilitative goals are related to the patient’s needs and the medical professional’s standards of practice, according to PATH International (a professional association for individuals involved in equine assisted therapies). At Cedar Creek patients in the program ride highly trained and schooled horses for therapy.

“The movement while riding a horse is the closest kind of movement you can get to walking,” said Karen Grindler, founder and executive director of Cedar Creek. “For people with physical disabilities the movement strengthens their core stomach muscles and gives them a sense of freedom.”

The bonding that occurs between the riders and the horses also provides self-esteem and confidence in individuals with mental, physical and emotional disabilities.

“The emotional disability side could be a child that has been abused,” Grindler said. “When you put this child on a horse you see them start to gain trust in the horse because they aren’t being judged. This ultimately results in restoration of the child’s trust in people.”

Equine therapy volunteers give individuals comfort through the ride. Equine therapy volunteers lead or walk beside the horse and patient throughout the rides. There are three to four volunteers per patient, and they are there to keep the person riding the horse calm and balanced.

Volunteers are not required to have experience with horses to help with the Cedar Creek program.  New volunteers completed training on Monday, March 11, for the spring sessions.

The spring session of this program is eight weeks long, and it began March 13. There are 111 participants enrolled in the program during each of the eight weeks. Volunteers sign up to help out two hours each week during the spring session.

“We rely heavily on volunteers, because they make it possible for us to successfully run this program,” Grindler said.

If you would like to enroll in, or volunteer, with Cedar Creek in the future they can be contacted through email at If you would like to learn more, visit the Cedar Creek website.

Kayla Conwell

About the Author Kayla Conwell

Agriculture has always been a huge part of my life. I grew up in a single-stoplight town in southeast Iowa, where harvesters roamed the streets as well as the fields, and herds of cattle speckled the countryside. My family lives right on the outside of town where we raise show cattle. My family has been involved in agriculture for many years, and I want to keep it in my life, so majoring in science and agricultural journalism at the University of Missouri was a no-brainer. It’s similar to incorporating a piece of home into my life here at Mizzou. My plans for the future are to spread the news about production agriculture while traveling the world and experiencing new things.