Horses used as a form of therapy at Praying Hands Ranch in Parker

Horse therapy used for people facing challenges

PARKER - Learning to ride a horse can be strong medicine. This week's 7Everyday Hero has been proving it for more than twelve years.

Bonnie Leary is a certified therapeutic riding instructor at Praying Hands Ranch. The Parker facility serves more than 100 special needs clients a week, free of charge.

"We have some riders here with various special needs who've become very good equestrians," said Leary.

Riding a horse can be fun. But learning to control an animal of that size also provides the rider with a unique sense of achievement.

That is perfect for someone trying to overcome a physical or developmental challenge.

One of Leary's clients is ten year old Conner.

"He can steer the horse, stop the horse, he can handle the horse probably better than someone off the street," she said.

Conner can tell a difference too.

"I have muscle issues. Usually I walk on my tippy-toes for a long time and this helps me because I have muscle issues.  So, that's pretty much the reason we do horseback riding," said Conner.

Leary has seen how maneuvering a horse improves balance, focus, strength and self-esteem.

"Seeing the students improve.  Seeing a student who comes to me in a wheelchair what can't sit up and in two years sitting up and being functional, that's my reward," said Leary.

Of course this might not happen if not for the generosity of Praying Hands Ranch and highly trained instructors like Bonnie Leary, who share their gifts to help others.

"She is very good with the clients. She has a heart for them. She's just a great, special lady," said Mary Hanson, Volunteer Coordinator at Praying Hands Ranch.

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