KCK ranch uses horses to help people with disabilities - KCTV5

KCK ranch uses horses to help people with disabilities

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Every week, dozens of volunteers flock to the Due West Therapeutic Riding Center in Wyandotte County to make a difference for children with autism, down syndrome or other developmental disabilities. Every week, dozens of volunteers flock to the Due West Therapeutic Riding Center in Wyandotte County to make a difference for children with autism, down syndrome or other developmental disabilities.
KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -

Parents of a young man diagnosed with autism as a child were told he would be in an institution by the time he was a teen.

Instead, 21-year-old Sean Holley is going to school, making friends and riding horses with the help of unique form of therapy.

Every week, dozens of volunteers flock to the Due West Therapeutic Riding Center in Wyandotte County to make a difference for children with autism, Down syndrome or other developmental disabilities.

The horses help those children in way that is very different than most clinical therapy settings.

At the age of 2, doctors diagnosed Holley with autism.

"They said he'd never talk, never have eye contact, never be a functioning member of our family," Sean's mother, Leia Holley, said.

Sean Holley's father, Jamie Holley, said it has also helped with his son's self confidence.

"It helps with his anxiety," he said.

Sean Holley is proving them wrong with the help of therapeutic riding sessions at the ranch off Donahoo Road in Kansas City, KS.

"He talks, he has more friends than I do. He loves to go to school. He reads and he loves the horseback riding," Leia Holley said.

Fifteen horses are used for therapy on the 80-acre ranch.

"A lot of our individuals that ride with us have disabilities or needs that can't be seen. Some have emotional disorders, some have attention deficit or hyper activity disorder," executive director and lead instructor Mary Sharp said.

Sharp and owner Bill Basler say they designed their program after nearby clinics that are miles away from Wyandotte County.

"The waiting list for these centers is huge. It can be anywhere from three to seven years," Sharp said.

They wanted to offer the option closer to home for families in Wyandotte County, including Sean's family.

"When we found here it was in our backyard. It was a goldmine for us because we were going to drive to Baldwin City. We drove an hour," Leia Holley said.

Sean Holley is now increasing his attention span, receptive language and improving social skills close to home.

"It is great to see him enjoy something as much as he loves horseback riding. This is his first love. He would do it every day. I'm proud of him," Leia Holley said.

Sharp said the skeletal and muscular structure of a horse mimics that of a human. Any time a rider gets on a horse, that movement creates muscle memory.

They are hoping to secure funding to create scholarships for riders including many veterans who live or work at nearby Fort Leavenworth.

For more information on Due West Therapeutic Riding Center, click here.

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