Niagara Gazette — Smith said that children with physical disabilities have to have permission from their doctor before they can enter the program, and then they are evaluated by a physical therapist at Equi*Star who recommends activities. However, she stressed that even people confined to wheelchairs can benefit from Equi*Star.
Libby the Mule is very calm, and is good for excitable children; Eeyore the donkey is short and sturdy for people who can’t climb onto a bigger horse. Lily the pony is just right for small children, or for those who can’t physically get on a horse. Lily is also used an ambassador for the ranch. She can be taken to events and classrooms where larger animals can’t go.
The ranch is also training a pony, Caprice, who like Lily is part of the “Personal Ponies” program. The specially bred ponies are trained and then given to a child with disabilities as a pet.
Smith said children with special needs can bond with a pony, and sometimes even non-verbal children will begin to socialize after caring for a pony. She credits the community with supporting Equi*Star over the years, and allowing it to grow and serve more people.
“We want everybody to be able to experience this. It’s just amazing what it can do,” Smith said.TO HELP • WHAT: Equi*Star volunteer training sessions • WHERE: Equi*Star Therapeutic Riding Center, 2199 Fuller Road, Burt • WHEN: Noon to 2 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to noon March 1 • MORE INFORMATION: Call 778-8249, 772-2156 or 778-0177