A Temple Grandin Equine Center is planned as part of the National Western Center, but equine assisted therapies and activities (EAAT) – which are utilized for a wide range of health conditions and special challenges – will begin in Denver in mid-March.
CSU will lease a temporary location in a portion of the current National Western Complex facilities and showcase what the future of programming in Denver may hold. Discussions are underway with Children’s Hospital, Denver Public Schools, and Denver Health to partner with CSU’s EAAT program and provide services to people in need.
“Our initial goal with this temporary facility is to start showcasing how CSU programs, like equine-assisted activities and therapies, will provide positive impact to the Denver community and other Colorado residents,” said Adam Daurio, Director of Administration & Outreach for the Temple Grandin Equine Center. “We will not only provide equine-assisted therapies, but will also have other recreational therapies and activities, volunteer experiences, and vocational training opportunities.”
The equine assisted therapies will be a welcome addition to the Denver and will serve a big need for the area, according to Claudia Curry Hill, who was diagnosed with Progressive MS 30 years ago – and then 10 years ago, equine assisted therapy changed her life.
“It took a lift and the assistance of the therapist to get me up there, but I could not stop smiling,” she said recalling vividly the day she sat atop a horse after not riding for 20 years.
Months later she recalls another moment: “having the balance and coordination to actually ride in my old English saddle again. I felt like me again, me before MS.”
The impact of equine assisted therapies
Eileen Greenberg has seen the impact of equine assisted therapies first hand as a volunteer. She began as a volunteer side walker at SaddleUp, a non-profit focused on equine assisted therapy in Parker, Colo.
“Each session was filled with enthusiasm and big smiles from the participants as they engaged with a therapist and a horse for their therapy, either on the horse or on the ground. From week to week, I could observe children improving their confidence, vocabulary, comfort on the horse, and physical strength,” she said.
Since then, Greenberg has volunteered in Arizona, California and Colorado. “My experiences have been transformational for me,” she said.
A Denver presence; what the future holds
The Temple Grandin Equine Center on the Colorado State University campus currently hosts significant research that will be utilized at the second Center at the National Western Center, a planned 250-acre year-round campus in North Denver on the site of the current stock show facilities.
Through the Temple Grandin Equine Center, CSU will host its research and education endeavors at the CSU Foothills Campus. The resulting evidence-based data and practice will then be implemented in a large community outreach center at the National Western Center, with the vision to become the preeminent research and education institution focusing on equine-assisted activities and therapies.
“Denver-based programming is an immeasurable bonus to and catalyst for the Temple Grandin Equine Center research and educational efforts being done in Fort Collins,” Daurio said.
“The Temple Grandin Equine Center in Fort Collins will be the hub for equine assisted activities and therapies research and education; being able to then disburse CSU’s gained EAAT knowledge, data and experiences into such a large urban and metropolitan area like Denver, we will be able to have immense impact.”
Denver means impact because it provides mass – a mass of patients, clients, participants, practitioners, and volunteers – and Daurio expects the program to see enormous impact by providing access to many more individuals.
“Adults and children will find equine assisted therapy engaging and life changing,” Greenberg said. “The love, joy, and “present moment” connection that happens when a person interacts with a horse is deeply healing on a physical, emotional and spiritual level.”
A life changed
Hill feels that the opportunity to utilize equine assisted therapy has changed her life dramatically, and she notes she is “forever grateful.” Thinking of the number of lives yet to be changed by access to the programming makes her smile.
“There are many words that come to mind when I think about these healing horses. Beauty, strength and power,” she said. “But above all, I think of freedom. Freedom from your wheelchair or the mental and physical constraints that keep you grounded. Someone once said that when humans climbed on their backs, horses gave us wings. They have certainly given me wings.”