Ironstone Therapy, Inc. at Ironstone Farm provides therapy using a horse. Progress is carefully monitored, documented and sent to the referring physician or agency monthly. Riding a horse simulates people’s normal walking movements, encouraging strengthened trunk control, improved balance and coordination, normalized muscle tone and increased stamina. Doctors refer a variety of clients, including those on the autism spectrum, because it can lead to improved social interactions.
People with the following challenges are among those served at Ironstone Farm through our two nonprofit organizations, Challenge Unlimited, Inc. and Ironstone Therapy: Apert syndrome, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, cognitive delay, developmental disability, Down syndrome, epilepsy, hearing impairment, Huntington Disease, learning disability, low muscle tone, mental handicap, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, pervasive development delay, Prader-Willi syndrome, seizure disorder, spina bifida, spinal cord injury, stroke, traumatic brain injury, visual impairment, Williams syndrome.
Challenge Unlimited uses horses, riding, and the environment of the working farm as educational and therapeutic tools to help people with a variety of abilities. Licensed instructors design programs that encourage self-confidence and contribute to improved physical condition. Riding horses makes therapy an experience that is both challenging and fun.
The therapeutic benefits of horseback riding can continue to assist children who no longer qualify for Early Intervention Services while enrolled in our Ironstone Therapy Program (starting at age 3). For therapeutic riding, children are placed with a licensed riding instructor for a half-hour one-on-one session to work on goals of self-confidence and physical development.
Connecting people and horses to improve people’s quality of life is at the heart of our programs.
Ironstone Farm offers therapeutic riding programs for high school youth through their schools. For example, for the past five years, high school and junior high students from the Haverhill Alternative School have been part of a weekly opportunity, where they have learned to care for and ride horses.
The following comments about what the program has meant to the students comes from an August 2013 letter sent by teacher Debora Schnappauf:
Many of our students have experienced life situations/trauma which can cause them to be overwhelmed by their emotions. The program at Ironstone Farm has given students the opportunity to work on managing their feelings, calming themselves and staying focused on a task at hand (riding the horse). They know that the horse will “feel” it if they are out of control, loud, angry, etc., and they work hard to manage their feelings/behaviors while at the farm. In turn, they develop relationships with the horses that are akin to a friendship.
Many of our students are considered the “bad kids” in their communities. Many of them have limited postive relationships with adults both in their families and in their communities.
My students’ relationships with the volunteers at Ironstone Farm have been a high point of their experience there. These connections are the building blocks that our students need to continue building positive connections with adults, to trust others, and to build good, productive lives for themselves.
In many cases, some form of therapeutic equine encounter may be used as part of the Veterans Experience and our Ironstone Farm Retreats, for people who have received a cancer diagnosis or are in recovery.