Therapeutic Riding Program
Nicholas is a 27 year old young man with a fun-loving, determined, courageous, & positive outlook on life. He never gives up & inspires many people who know him! Because of experiencing a lack of oxygen at birth, Nic has the diagnosis of severe spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. The high level of spasticity (tight muscles) in his body causes Nic to struggle with movement & active use of his muscles. Since birth it has been a never ending battle to train his body to relax & achieve active mobility. He has experienced over 20,000 hours of many forms of therapy through the years. Other than two forms of regular ongoing medical therapy involving medications used to help with relaxation & pain management, massage therapy & therapeutic horseback riding have proven to be two of the most effective forms of treatment to help Nic maintain & improve his current level of quality of life.
Using Nic's words from a recent excerpt on his Facebook page, Today I rode Spike for 19 laps in the indoor arena. He's the best & he really listens to me! I have been riding at Trinity Equestrian Center (TEC) since 2011. I have ridden Doc & Regal (both in heaven now), Cruz who's retired, & I'm helping to train a new therapy horse named Rowdy. The riding really wears my body out. It helps me strengthen my core & leg muscles & helps me learn to balance. TEC is an awesome riding facility! My trainer Elizabeth is a little bit bossy! I think it is because she is s from the South. Lol! I still love her though!
Elizabeth is the third trainer/riding instructor who has worked with Nic at TEC. He likes to joke that as a TEC riding veteran he is not only helping to train the new therapy horses, he is also training the new instructors! In 2011 when Nic first started riding at TEC, he could not even tolerate sitting comfortably on the back of the horse. He used a stationary horse with a saddle on it, to get stretched out before riding, in order to tolerate sitting on the back of the real horse. He then had to progressively tolerate learning to balance and relax with the movement of the horse. Now he can ride various horses, indoors & outdoors, using a variety of different types of saddles and therapy pads. The weekly therapy sessions have contributed to better balance, assisted in maintaining range-of-motion, strength in his muscles and teaches proprioceptive qualities of movement that are similar to walking.
Nic's family believes regular riding is contributing to some of his amazing walking goals & accomplishments in the past few years. To put this in perspective, 2 years ago Nic was using a standing frame for short periods of time & doing very little assisted walking. Last summer he met his goal of walking to a gas station, 1 block up the street and back to his home, using a gait trainer. It took him over an hour to do this. This summer he met his first goal of walking to a restaurant about 3 blocks from his home by June. He walked his first full mile by the end of August in just over 1 hour, and is now walking over a mile at least 1-2 times per week in less than an hour. He competed in his first 5K run in October & walked almost half of it with his gait trainer. This is completely unbelievable for him to be doing at his age! He is part of his own miracle in motion! One of his caregivers has called it his "Walking for a Miracle Journey"! Nic loves to have people visit his Facebook page to follow his progress.
Another added benefit of the therapeutic riding is increased mental & emotional well-being for Nic. There is a lot of unspoken language & trust that is established between the horse & rider. TEC specializes in working with Veterans who are recovering from combat effects of PTSD. Nic's mom & dad are both Army Veterans. Nic was born on Fort Knox, KY & lived half of his life as part of a military family. The benefit of having his physical needs met at a facility like TEC, which takes care of Veteran's & their family members, has deep meaning and significance to Nic. His experiences have taught him about the price of freedom & sacrifice involved in maintaining our ability to live with security & self-determination. He understands recovery takes a lot of time, hard work and can not be done without the help of others. He and his family are proud to support, and in turn be supported by Trinity Equestrian Center, owners, horses, employees and many volunteers who work tirelessly there to help others.