Drew Adamson sat astride a horse for a personal best of 55 minutes. The only assistance he received was a hand on the saddle and one lightly positioned on his side. For a former soldier in Iraq, now a paraplegic, this is a great feat.
Drew and his mother, Nancy Adamson, have been going every week to the Appalachian Foothills Therapeutic Equestrian Center since September 2010.
Early pioneers in horse therapy believed that there was such a thing as equestrian-partnered spirituality and that through “strange and serendipitous encounters” befriending horses could cultivate the human heart and soul. Some still believe and experience the hidden world of animal energy and instinct.
Mark Martin, the center’s executive director, says he recognizes the sacrifices that those who have returned to civilian life have made, and his staff wants to show their gratitude. The organization provided 57 riders in need with 629 hours of Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies last year alone.
Located in Richmond, the center will partner with the Eastern Kentucky Veterans Club on May 5 to host Horses for Heroes, an event helping wounded soldiers reconnect with their families and communities to rise above psychological and physical challenges.
Upon returning from Iraq, Drew Adamson was placed in a hospital for a year and a half because of impairments in his motor and sensory functions of his lower extremities. He received an invitation to attend Challenge Aspen Military Opportunities in Colorado. The organization provides recreational and cultural experiences for wounded warriors with cognitive or physical disabilities.
Once Drew Adamson’s Challenge Aspen session was over, he was strongly encouraged to find a place in his home state of Kentucky to get involved with equine therapy.
Nancy Adamson called around and discovered the Appalachian Foothills Therapeutic Equestrian Center. “Everyone there are wonderful, and they couldn’t do it without the volunteers. We would like to continue with them for as long as they are willing.”
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, records show that more VA hospitals are prescribing equine therapy than ever before. Although there is a lack of clinical evidence, equine therapy has shown proven positive results for military personnel.
“The benefits you get from a horse you won’t get from any other animal,” said Nancy Adamson. “There’s something about the movements of a horse that stimulates our own movements.”
The equine therapy has been more beneficial for her son than all of his ongoing occupational, physical and speech therapies, she said. “It’s amazing what Drew has accomplished. His core strength has increased and he can actually sit up on his own now.”
During Drew Adamson’s first ride at the center, he laid completely flat on the neck of the horse. Three years later, he is sitting up with almost no assistance. He is much more aware of his surroundings and the movements around him.
EKU Veterans Affairs reports the department is dedicated to supporting veterans and military families. The school’s involvement with Horses for Heroes is another reason why the University was recently named No. 1 nationally in the annual edition of Military Times “Best for Vets” survey.
Mark Martin invites anyone who’s been deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan to come experience the benefits of developing a relationship with a horse. The team at the center is more than willing to develop and design a program suited to any particular person regardless of their conditions or ailments.
Story by Allie Rankin