Cookie gives first lessons |

Cookie gives first lessons

Gage Goddard takes a shot at the basketball hoop from atop 'Cookie' as therapy aid Ryanna Blake looks on Wednesday at Kids & Horses.
Brad Coman |

Everyone loves “Cookie,” the horse that recently joined Kids and Horses therapeutic center.

The black and white Gypsy Vanner which looks like an Oreo cookie dunked in a glass of milk, was brought to the center last August and began giving lessons earlier this month.

“She has a very sweet and curious personality,” said Kids and Horses team member Ryanna Blake. “All the kids love her and are always excited to ride her.”

Cookie was won through a Facebook competition and was brought from Lex Lin Gypsy Ranch in Rockwood, Tenn.

Blake said the eight-year-old horse was not saddle broken when she arrived, but is adjusting well and seems to love her new job.

“We have had absolutely no issues with her, she’s been a star,” said Blake.

Cookie is one of eight program horses at the center that assist in adaptive therapy riding.

Adaptive Riding lessons are for individuals with special needs to learn how to ride horses. Students experience many therapeutic benefits through learning horsemanship skills and from horseback riding itself with certified instructors utilizing adaptive equipment and techniques to facilitate learning how to ride in a safe, effective manner.

Michele Goddard said the lessons have made a big difference for her 6-year-old son, Gage Goddard, who has Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder.

“His experience here has been life changing,” she said. “It’s crazy how it works. All I know is it’s been life changing for him.”

Goddard said Gage was diagnosed with Autism and SPD at 4 years old.

She said he wouldn’t eat certain foods or touch slimy materials and certain sounds bothered him.

“At first, we didn’t understand it, we thought it was just a phase,” she said.

After Gage was diagnosed, Goddard said she and her husband began educating themselves.

“Basically everything he sees, smells and touches gets mixed up,” said Goddard. “It’s not a disease or something that can be cured. What we’re doing is helping him rewire his brain so he can process things more easily and behave in a more ‘sociably acceptable’ way.”

Goddard said the instructors at Kids and Horses incorporate physical therapy and occupational therapy with hippotherapy or adaptive horse back riding.

Lessons are individually designed to achieve goals and are tailored to each rider’s specific needs and abilities. Instructors choose various teaching methods, tools, appropriately challenging lesson plans, games and exercises to help riders achieve their objectives.

Gage was buttoning different kinds of clothing while riding Cookie backward during his lesson Wednesday.

“From what I understand, by putting him in different positions and giving him different materials to touch and put together helps with balance and coordination,” said Goddard. “It helps work the brain and rewire it so he can adapt to his surroundings and be more comfortable. It really is crazy how it works. We leave here and he’s happy and more adaptable.”

Kids and Horses has been serving the community with adaptive horseback riding lessons since 1999, teaching individuals with disabilities how to ride horses through safe, effective lessons by PATH-certified instructors.

They work with individuals of all ages, facing a broad range of challenges such as Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Traumatic Brain injury, Sensory Processing Disorder, Stroke and learning disabilities.

Kids & Horses is located at 2869 Esaw Street, Minden. For more information, or 267-1775 and connect on Facebook at Kids & Horses.