Green River Star -

By David Martin

Learning to ride high in the saddle


David Martin

Dax Casper, held by his mother Erica Casper, greets a horse Julie Toman is comforting.

The third Rider's Showcase hosted by One Step Closer, an equine-assisted therapy organization, gave students a chance to show off their riding skills to friends and family Thursday at the Green River rodeo arena.

One Step Closer is a group serving people with developmental or physical disabilities, giving them a chance to receive therapy through their involvement with horses.

"We believe anyone can benefit from equine therapy," Ashlee Swett, the group's executive assistant said.

Students are evaluated to see how the program can best benefit them. Swett said movement on a horse is the closest to that of a human, which helps riders as the horse's gait stretches and utilizes muscles in a similar fashion to walking upright. The heat transferred through the horse to the rider's legs also helps loosen those muscles, which helps riders who may otherwise not be able to walk, utilize work those muscle groups. Swett said there's an emotional and social aspect to the program as well, with rider forming a bond with the horses they ride, as well as work with people from all walks of life while in the program. For some students with autism, Swett said riding can help them manage the overwhelming amount of stimulus and information their brains are processing.

"It's a very comforting, calming experience," she said.

While the program may be most known for its work with children and teens, program director Cindy Brandjord said they plan to host their first adults with disabilities program in the next week. She said the demand for the program is so great it could be a full-time, year-round program and is in the process of advocating for an indoor arena in Green River to help support her program.


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