Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Riding toward Health: Tulsa Nonprofit Offers Therapeutic Horseback Riding for Disabled

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Riding toward Health: Tulsa Nonprofit Offers Therapeutic Horseback Riding for Disabled

Article excerpt

Freedom is found through every stride. Vickie Burkett said that's the foundation for therapeutic horseback riding.

"Imagine the individuals in wheelchairs who can't exercise," said Burkett, founder and executive director of American Therapeutic Riding Center in Sand Springs. "By riding a horse they can improve flexibility and muscle strength - the results are amazing."

The nonprofit center has been open for more than a year. Vickie and her husband spent more than $300,000 to develop the center.

They already had a full plate, owning three Tulsa-based companies. But Burkett said when she heard about a need for more therapeutic centers, they decided to take action.

"We wanted to help individuals get the physical therapy that they need," she said. "Now we have over 50 riders. We are seeing great results in a short time."

Therapeutic horseback riding is used to help people with disabilities. There are about 800 certified horseback therapeutic centers across the country, according to the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association. Oklahoma has 12 listed on the NARHA Web site.

Despite the number of facilities, Leslie Kirkland thinks only a small percentage of the population knows about the therapy.

Kirkland, a registered physical therapist, said several years ago she read about the benefits of therapeutic horseback riding. After doing market research, she said there was potential for such a facility to succeed in Oklahoma. About 12 years ago she opened The Right Path Therapeutic Riding Academy in Drumright. On a weekly basis the facility helps 30 to 35 children.

She said therapeutic riding centers are a massive financial endeavor. It requires horses, a facility, trainers and staff.

"It can be an intense situation," she said. "As a nonprofit you have to seek corporate and private donors. That is kind of a business in itself."

If therapeutic horseback centers could ride past misconceptions, Kirkland said she thinks more people would be willing to donate and help the cause. …

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