Inspiration Journal - Body - Mind - Spirit
Issue 43 Inspiration Journal, May - June 2010

Healing Horses by Barbara Carroll

When you open the red wooden gate of 3146 Akahi Street, Lihue, Kauai immediately you can tell this is certainly not any typical commercial property. The yellow house is surrounded by green grass and lined with beautiful tropical plants and flowers. Show up on any given Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday and you will find this yard graced with the wonderment of Kauai's keiki and adults connecting with gentle, well-trained horses and ponies. Here, Karin Stoll, a Clinical Social Worker, has perfectly created her own intimate pasture to share with the Kauai Community, by bringing her specialized skills in social work and recruiting a dynamic team of professionals including: Horse Trainers, Occupational Therapists, NARHA Certified Instructors, accomplished horse riders, horse assistants, parents and volunteers. Her team, along with the horses, ponies, keiki and adult participants make up Healing Horses, Kauai.Healing Horses, Kauai.

Healing Horses originally started in 2005 and then became a non-profit organization, founded in 2008, by Karin Stoll, MSW, DCSW. Healing Horses offers Hippotherapy, ('hippos" meaning horse in greek), which incorporates therapeutic horse riding, Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) activities. Hippotherapy benefits the emotionally, physically and mentally challenged individuals of all ages starting from 3 years old. The main benefits of hippotherapy are regulation of muscle tone, improved balance, coordination, sensory integration (Straub,1998, 2000) and gross motor skills (McGibbon et al 1998). Healing Horses, Kauai.

People with emotional challenges such as low self-esteem, substance dependence, PTSD, Selective Mutism, Depression and Generalized Anxiety respond well to EFP. Other diagnoses, including and not limited to; Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Downs Syndrome, Stroke/CVA and Traumatic Brain Injuries, show significant improvement in balance and muscle tone as a result of EAL. Individuals with Autism, ADHD, Learning Delays and Mental challenges can also benefit from Hippotherapy in many ways. Riding the horse increases sensory and vestibular input. The vibrations felt between the body of the rider connecting with the movement of the horse helps to increase one's body awareness and positioning. It also provides a calming stimulation, creates an environment to promote increased attention span and the ability to focus on the activities. In addition, the physical interaction of brushing and petting the horse, riding the horse and holding the reins helps to promote increased tactile stimulation for those that may be resistant to touch, (tactile defensiveness).Healing Horses, Kauai.

The Horses promote the children and adults to leave their wheelchairs, walkers, canes and fears behind as they learn to ride. Healing Horses offers our riders a feeling of freedom and sense of accomplishment through their befriending of, riding and command of these 1,200 pound sociable horses. It is through this interaction that doubt is transformed into confidence and disability into fitness and strength. Core psychological objectives of equine-facilitated psycho-therapy/learning are to introduce gradually a sense of order, to create an understanding of boundaries, to develop focus and to instill trust (Ewing et al, 2007). Our working horses are "strong medicine," connecting with our riders left-brain, to stimulate and improve the body, mind and soul. Our staff and volunteers help promote our participants to increase their social interaction skills, abilities to follow instructions, perform exercises and balance activities while riding. Our well-trained team at Healing Horses strives to provide a safe and positive environment for everyone, at all times.Healing Horses, Kauai.

We welcome the public to attend all sessions and cheer our riders on. We would also like to extend our gratitude to the Kauai community for their support over the years. We continue to welcome fundraising assistance such as grant-writing, financial sponsors for client scholarships, horse adoption-helping with maintenance and feed, donations of supplies and monetary gifts that will help keep us "in the saddle" and allow us to continue to provide these services to our community. Healing Horses, Kauai.

Feel free to learn more about Healing Horses by checking out our website: www.healinghorseskauai.com, contacting Karin Stoll at 808-632-2010 or emailing: kastoll@hawaiiantel.net. We look forward to you stopping by and joining us at Healing Horses, Kauai.

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