Building confidence with horseback riding Submitted: 08/02/2013
Story By Shardaa Gray

Photos By Shardaa Gray

WOODRUFF - Animals can make humans feel better.

The relationship can even be a form of therapy.

Sarah Nei has Down syndrome.

She's built a lot of confidence over the last two years.

It's all thanks to a program in Woodruff called Hoof Prints of Hope.

"The purpose is to connect kids and horses and to help kids come out of their shell." said Hoof Prints of Hope Director, Cheryl Vos.

Vos started horseback riding lessons three years ago to help developmentally challenged kids.

"The riding program helps in a way that when a kid rides, the movement of the horse mimics our movement and it creates muscle memory," Vos said.

"So for them it changes their gait."

Sarah's mom has seen drastic improvement since Sarah first started.

"It shows me that she is capable of interacting with others. Capable of asking for what she wants." Dawn Nei said.

Students like Sarah aren't the only people benefiting from this program.

"If like there's people in my classroom or something, it kind of has the same thing as them. I can kind of help them because I know from this opportunity." said volunteer, Ashley Marquardt.

Someday, Vos wants to have her own ranch.

She would devote it to helping developmentally challenged kids and at-risk young adults.

"My goal is not to make a ton of money at this," Vos said.

"It's never been my goal. My goal is just to help kids and families."

Classes are every Monday at the Double D Ranch.

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