TREAT Goes to Blind Camp
TREAT takes its therapy services on the road
MERKEL, TEXAS—Her smile was as bright as the West Texas sun that beamed down on the Butman Methodist Camp and Retreat Center outside of Abilene, Texas.
Although her vision was impaired, everyone around her could see the joy on Cassandra’s face as she rode one of Tarleton’s horses around a large grassy field.
The scene was picturesque—a clear blue sky, mountains dotted with green cedars and dozens of disabled children connecting with horses.
Tarleton Equine Assisted Therapy (TREAT) program volunteers, horses and a few other farm animals left Stephenville early Monday morning and traveled to Merkel to give rides to children attending the Experience E.X.C.E.L.S. (Expanded Core Education in Living Skills) camp hosted by the Abilene District Office of the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services-Blind Services.
“The trip went great, and we are booked for next year,” said TREAT Director Dr. David Snyder. “We have requests to do a couple of additional events.”
Cassandra, sitting pretty in pink, seemed motionless sitting in her wheelchair. Since she couldn't walk, Snyder scooped her up in his arms, climbed a small step and placed Cassandra on a horse. She only slightly moved as Snyder placed a white helmet on her head.
As soon as the horse took off, the magic began. It was clear that her demeanor changed.
Cassandra lifted her arms to the heavens and couldn't contain her smile. TREAT volunteers walked beside the horse carrying Cassandra as they circled the meadow. As the group rounded back, Cassandra leaned forward and placed her head near the horse, stroking his mane.
“The effect of animals is just amazing,” Snyder said in an article for the Abilene Reporter-News. “They bring out something in kids. Everyone can attach to an animal.”
Cassandra’s story was only one of many that occurred that day at Butman. Children up to 18 years old and their families from Midland, Odessa, Abilene, Wichita Falls and Lubbock attended the four-day camp.
“You see the reaction of these kids—that’s the other reason we do it,” Snyder said in an on camera interview with KTAB, the CBS news station in Abilene. “You see one or two of these kids with a smile on their face and it makes the whole day worth while.”
Since 1995, TREAT has been providing physical, mental and emotional therapy in a fun environment that makes children and adults want to participate. Animal-assisted activities improve self-confidence, self-awareness and discipline. Equine-assisted activity is an effective treatment for many types of disabilities. The program provides training and volunteer opportunities for Tarleton students.