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Therapeutic Riding of Texas is more than a family outing

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BETHANY BERRY

The Ellis County Press

CEDAR HILL – For Tammy Stewart, participating in Therapeutic Riding of Texas is more than a family outing, it’s a life-changing experience and a step toward a better tomorrow for her and her family.

Only recently did Tammy enroll her 10-year-old daughter, Alexis, into TROT, and it wasn’t long before she saw improvements in her daughter’s Autistic behavior.

As Tammy walked from the stable house toward the session area, she revealed her personal testimony of Alexis’ most recent improvement.

"She fed herself peanut butter," Tammy recalled as tears flooded her eyes, "and once she was finished, she washed the spoon; all by herself.

"I can remember when she would sit quietly in her room, barely saying a word. It’s just amazing."

Alexis’ older brother, Dakota, looked on as he watched his sister toss horse shoes back and forth to Annie Sims, TROT’s lead instructor.

"I don’t know who it’s helped more, Alexis, Dakota or myself," said Tammy.

"It’s also brought them both closer and he’s also more into animals."

Jan and Tom Hyman, parents of Danny, the fun-loving 17-year-old, also witnessed progress in their son’s behavior.

Danny, who suffers Autism and a speech language disorder, began like all other novice students, with the help of a handler and horse trainer. Now he only rides with the assistance of a horse trainer.

The horse riding improves muscle tone and strength, balance, posture, coordination, endurance, motor development and range of motion along with the relationship formed with the horse provides a higher level of confidence, patience and self-esteem in riders with mental or physical disabilities.

For most parents, TROT is the only form of animal therapy they have utilized.

"We’ve only just begun and she’s improved leaps and bounds," Tammy said. "She sleeps much better, she’s more focused and she’s learned responsibility. TROT has helped a great deal."

For more than 20 years, TROT has served area special need students through its recreational lessons.

"It’s more than a pony ride, said Sheila Skelton, TROT volunteer and public relations contact, "it has tons of therapeutic benefits."

TROT is a non-profit organization which receives portions of its funds from personal contributions and fundraising activities.

"We are 100 percent ran by volunteers," Sheila said, "and we are in need of more."

It is difficult to provide an accurate number of volunteers, so TROT is asking for committed volunteers to assist with riding lessons and the construction upgrades in the donated property it sits on, Gemini Farms.

Sheila, a lover of horses, said she originally volunteered to be near the animals, but like many others, stayed for the students said animals have a way of reaching into children and pulling something out.

She, like many other volunteers, has observed the many miracles have taken place on Gemini Farms.

Because of the generosity of its members, many students are awarded scholarships.

"No one has been turned away because of their inability to pay," Sheila proudly said. "It’s just great to be a part of something like this and with the help of volunteers, will be able to continue the legacy.

Gemini Farms is located at 1701 S. Duncanville Road in Cedar Hill. For more information about TROT or volunteer opportunities, visit www.trottx.org or call 972-293-3388.


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