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EXCHANGE: Equine services provide alternatives

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MAKANDA, Ill. (AP) — Individuals with cognitive or physical disabilities may have an alternative to drug-based therapy.

The Specialized Equine Services at Giant City Stables in Makanda offers equine therapy, which is a therapeutic tool of the physically disabled. The therapy is also used for treating a wide variety of psychological and mental disorders, said Ramona Twellman, executive director of Specialized Equine Services.

"If somebody has a physical disability, they often have range of motion and balance issues, so the therapy helps with stretching and balance issues," Twellman said. "When riding a horse, the motion mimics the walking motion of the human."

She said the therapy also helps individuals to build their core strength so later they can be more mobile in their legs and hips.

For individuals with cognitive issues, the therapy helps the brain think in a different manner than usual.

"We help with word and color recognition and we play games in the arena where they have to go find things. It is basically puzzle solving," Twellman said. "It makes them combine multiple activities."

The therapy is also for wounded military and veterans impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder.

Twellman said working with and around the horses helps them learn the proper sequence and order of completing tasks so the horses remain cooperative and responsive. She said the order and direction required to develop riding and driving skills are familiar strategies to military personnel.

"They are in such a heighten state of awareness all the time that they get overwhelmed if you start throwing things really fast at them," Twellman said. "The horses are very similar so it is really non-confrontational."

Patricia Nardini, president of Specialized Equine Services board of directors, said the non-for-profit organization funds 50 percent of the cost of each lesson and 100 percent of each lesson for veterans.

"It is very rewarding to provide this service," Nardini said. "I feel this is something that just needs to be done."

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Online: (Cardondale) Southern Illinoisan, http://bit.ly/POs0VQ

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Information from: Southern Illinoisan, http://www.southernillinoisan.com

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