DALLAS, Texas (KDAF) — Cowboys and horses are part of the DFW DNA – at Equest, horses are for much more than just riding. They’re actually used to enhance lives.

“Instead of going to the clinic and sitting on a big rubber ball, you come to Equest and utilize the symmetrical, three-dimensional movement of the horse to facilitate the therapy plans,” Joan Cutler, Program Manager at Equest said.

Patrick, 17, participated in Equest horse therapies, allowing him to build full-body strength.

They have therapy plans for every kind of person: emotional therapy. 

“We can actually read the horses,” Megan Price, an occupational therapist with Equest, said. “We’ll say, Thoran here is not so interested in this person. What’s going on inside them – let’s work on that.’”

They also offer physical therapy. Many of Equest’s programs are geared toward helping those with disabilities.

“Pretend you’re an 8-year-old little boy and you sit in a wheelchair most of the time,” Cutler said. “But every Tuesday at 3 o’clock, you get to come to Equest and they put you on a 1,200-pound horse and you get to tell that 1,200-pound horse where to go, what to do, how to do it. Your brothers and sisters get to watch you do it.”

Cutler helps an Equest participant, Bralen, groom Suzy the horse.

For those like 17-year-old Patrick, his time on the horse doubles as his time at the gym.

“A physical therapist once told me that 30 minutes on the horse for some of these kids, is like 2,000 mini situps,” Cutler said. “That doesn’t happen when you’re sitting in a chair. That happens when you’re on the back of a horse and you have to correct your balance every time the horse moves and every step. You’re getting that exercise can benefit while on the back of a horse – which is pretty cool in itself.”

All of which gives clients an ego boost. Not just for those with disabilities.

“You might’ve seen him sitting, standing or in a two-point position with his hands down on Thoran with his bottom off of the saddle,” Price said. “These are different positions to strengthen the core, strengthen the legs, put some pressure on the hands for some proprioceptive input to the joints. It’s mainly all for strengthening and conditioning Patrick’s body.”

A lot of it is empowering, self-confidence, socialization and physical things that go with it. 

Equest participant uses training to move horseback and feed them a bale of hay.

“You come to Equest, start working with the horses and one of your self-confidence things is that you can pick up the foot of a 1,200-pound horse.”

One Equest participant named Bralen, who learned horsemanship skills through programs taught CW33’s Landon Wexler how to groom a horse. You can watch that full experience above.

“It’s hay and rocks and you get it out like this… and then you use this to get the rest out.”

Participants like Bralen learn the ins and outs of taking care of a horse – a therapy in itself.

“That teaches kids and adults horsemanship skills – how to ride, how to work with them, how to groom them, how to get them ready, how to put them away – all the things that go into riding and teaching responsibility,” Cutler said.

At the same time, therapies also serve as clients’ daily exercises.

Equest is located at the Texas Horse Park in Dallas.

“I have some other kids and folks who come here and just move their arm and do that motion, getting that range into the count of ten – I’d rather brush a horse than lift weights, go to the gym and those things,” Cutler said. “It has a lot of different benefits and some of them we sneak in without you even knowing about it.”

As of now at Equest, veterans and their families have access to programs for free.

“Equest provides services for veterans and their families for themselves and their families at no charge because we’re able to fund that program through donations, grants and other funding,” 

Equest is partnering with horses to enhance the lives of kids, adults and veterans alike. For information about enrolling in their services or their free programs for veterans and their families, you can visit the Equest website.