A local area nonprofit that offers equine therapy to those with disabilities is expanding its services in Hays County.
On Oct. 14, RED Arena, a group that uses equine-assisted therapy, will celebrate the grand opening of its new San Marcos location along Centerpoint Road. RED Arena currently operates in the Dripping Springs area.
The philosophy of equine therapy dates back to the ancient world more than 6,000 years ago, as domesticated horses were the first “man’s best friend.” Now, over 8,000 years later, Jen Young, physical therapist and executive director of RED Arena, and her team have crafted a physical therapy center that helps those who suffer from anxiety, cerebral palsy, autism and other disabilities.
“When you sit on a horse, it shifts your pelvis in a three-dimensional way, working your core and developing your muscles, all working as good physical therapy,” Young said. “But even as important, you are using communication with the animal, building your confidence and self-esteem for self-improvement.”
For young children, riding horses builds social skills, while providing an extracurricular activity. For those with anxiety and autism, the horses soothe the senses, bringing comfort to the mind giving those who suffer from mental disabilities a sense of emotional support.
Horse therapy can help treat motor and sensory skills in patients with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and stroke,
According to a study by Everyday Health, horses are prey animals, which makes them sensitive to people’s emotions, much likes dogs or other domesticated animals.
Additionally, the use of horses for therapy is a discipline practiced as far back as the fifth century B.C. Although not a new form of physical therapy, what is now referred to as Hippotherapy is the practice of using these animals to benefit one’s health.
Young’s new location will be at what was the A.W.A.R.E therapeutic riding program. The facility will have renovated facilities, including a 200-by-100-foot covered arena with 14 stalls and wheelchair accessible walkways, feed room, tack room, as well as an ADA accessible restroom and private therapy rooms. RED Arena received $20,000 in donations from the Hays County community for its new facility.
“We also work with adults who have suffered from strokes, head injuries and anxiety,” Young said. “Horses provide feedback that is not judgmental towards people. They relax and calm the body.”
Young said there is data that indicates there are nearly half a million people in the Austin area and the surrounding Hill Country with physical, social and emotional challenges that could benefit from equine therapy.
“We started in Dripping 10 years ago with one horse and ten kids, and now we serve 150 a week through our riding and therapy lessons,” Young said. “And now that we’re in San Marcos, we’ll be able to service the Kyle and Buda communities with a shorter drive to see us.”