Tuesday, December 12, 2017
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Heather Kuhl

Licensed psychologist and founder/ director of Kuhl Psychological Services

PHILANTHROPY: Give Back for Special Equestrians, which raises money to provide therapeutic riding scholarships for children and veterans who cannot afford these services

How did you get involved with therapeutic horseback riding?

Horses have been a part of my life for the last 33 years. About 10 years ago, I met a thera-pist who used horses as part of her approach with clients, which I later learned was termed equine-assisted therapy. I started researching this and was excited to read about the benefits to children and adults. And I was ecstatic to think I could merge my two passions—horses and psychology. So when the opportunity to start a nonprofit organization presented itself, I was all in.  

How has the charity helped kids and veterans?For a child with physical disabilities, therapeu-tic riding improves balance, strengthens mus-cles, improves trunk control, helps sensory and motor development, and aims to improve hand-eye coordination. It is also helpful with speech and language delays or autistic spectrum disorders. Language tasks can be incorporated into therapeutic riding lessons, or children have the opportunity to talk to their horse or pony. For veterans, therapeutic riding can offer many of the same benefits, especially when recover-ing from physical injuries sustained in battle. In addition, equine-assisted therapy can be less threatening when compared to traditional therapy for veterans coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or depression. The idea of sitting in a confined office space where a veteran is expected to talk about trauma and life difficulties can be difficult. Equine therapy offers veterans an alternate option where they attend sessions outdoors at a horse farm with individualized therapeutic activities with the horses rather than talking about their problems.

What satisfaction do you get helping people with physical, mental and emotional disabilities?There is nothing quite like seeing the smiles on the faces of the children and adults we help. The happiness and gratitude the parents exude as they get the opportunity to witness their loved one independent on the horse and free from disability, if even for a brief moment, is wonderful to see.