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GIVE LOCAL 757: Equine therapy helps children, veterans

COVID-19 has impacted critical therapy for people with mental and physical disabilities. EQUI-KIDS & EQUI-VETS are using equine therapy to help people heal.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Like so many other things, crucial physical and mental therapy was put on pause at the height of the pandemic. 

Stacy Rogers is the executive director of EQUI-KIDS Therapeutic Riding and EQUI-VETS Service programs, which use horses to help people with disabling health conditions. 

"Riding a horse is as close as a human can get to walking the actual gait. And it allows an individual to build their core muscles, improve their strength, improve their cognitive functioning," said Rogers. "Horses know the human. And they allow them to express themselves emotionally as well as provide physical benefits through riding."

The programs have helped children and adults with special needs and wounded service members for more than 30 years. 

That help looks different during COVID-19 as onsite programs slowly return. 

"We've been able to provide virtual and other online learning opportunities for the individuals that we serve," Rogers said. "And we've also come up with creative ways to help them by providing drive-through visits to the horses."

Meanwhile, Rogers said her team is handling a major spike in cases. 

"We've seen a hundred-percent increase in the number of calls we're getting from families that require our services," Rogers said.

The programs are working to recover from a year without fundraisers, grants, and other funding sources. 

"Our big annual Stall Ball and our 5k run were not able to be held last year due to the pandemic," she explained. "We need our community to help us bring back our programs and support the people in our community that are vulnerable and need us now more than ever."

For more information about EQUI-KIDS & EQUI-VETS, visit their website.

You can donate to the therapeutic programs and many other local organizations at GiveLocal757.org.