This pony’s back in the saddle |

This pony’s back in the saddle

Tim Mutrie

A trusty old pony with years of experience helping handicapped children and adults is back in the saddle again, so to speak.

Mickey, formerly of Happy on a Horse – a program that provided movement therapy for handicapped riders – was donated yesterday to another valley therapy provider.

The 20-year-old white pony is now with Sopris Therapy Services of Carbondale, where the agency hopes he’ll be able to provide many more years of “hippotherapy” riding experiences for children and adults with central nervous system dysfunction.

“Mickey’s just 14.1 hands tall, so he’s at the top of the pony range,” said Francie Baker, a board member with Sopris Therapy Services. Equines over 14.2 hands tall are considered horses, she explained.

“He’s not specially trained, but he’s tolerant of people on top of him that may not have good balance,” Baker added.

Mickey had been one of the ponies used by Maureen Garty, the physical therapist of Happy on a Horse, until she passed away last June, Baker said. Since then, he has been boarded at Aspen Equestrian Estates, waiting to return to action.

Mickey will join two other horses used for hippotherapy at Sopris Therapy Services, an organization founded five years ago by Belinda Brownell that also provides physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.

Baker said that hippotherapy provides patients with improved balance, attitudes, postural control and range of motion, as well as reduced levels of hyperactivity and distractibility.

Sopris Therapy Services hippotherapy instructors are certified with the North American Riding for Handicapped Association, Baker said, and the agency hopes to assemble a team of local riders in the future.

“In the Special Olympics, handicapped people compete on horseback,” Baker said. “We’ve never entered a team from the Roaring Fork Valley, but we’d like to some day.”

Sopris Therapy Services is seeking more clients to participate in its hippotherapy program, and the therapy group is also looking for volunteer help.

In addition, anyone interested in making a donation for Mickey’s upkeep can contact Sopris Therapy Services at 963-HORSE (4677).

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