News and Information
TREAT Rodeo brings out smiles for area children with special needs
Tarleton State University
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
STEPHENVILLE, Texas—Nearly 200 area public school students had the chance to be a cowboy for a day during the bi-annual Tarleton Equine Assisted Therapy (TREAT) Rodeo at the university’s Equine Center.
Not a frown could be found at the Tuesday event which saddled up youngsters from more than two dozen area school districts allowing them an opportunity to ride horseback and take part in other activities specifically designed for children with special needs.
“The kids love it and all of the new experiences and interacting with other children like them,” said Shelley Scheuren, special education teacher from Granbury ISD’s Acton Elementary school. “The smiles on their faces are great.”
Dozens of Tarleton students worked the event, including those enrolled in adaptive physical education and counseling-psychology courses.
“I’m glad I volunteered for my first (TREAT Rodeo),” said senior ag services and development major Ryan Smith. “The kids have enjoyed every moment, and to see the smiles on their faces … it’s priceless. Many of these kids only see horses in the pasture and might not get to ride or rope, but they get to interact with others and toss a rope today.”
The all-volunteer-run special kids rodeo included several modified events such as stick-horse racing, dummy roping and bull riding. What began as an evening therapeutic horseback riding program 19 years ago has turned into a daylong rodeo that allows children with special needs to challenge themselves, both physically and emotionally, said Dr. David Snyder, director of TREAT and professor of animal sciences.
“The changes we see in some participants are phenomenal, ranging from improvements in mobility to improvements in social interactions at home and at school,” said Snyder. “The changes brought about in college students who work with TREAT participants are equally impressive.”
Area public school students attending today’s TREAT Rodeo suffer from a variety of disabilities ranging from autism and attention deficit disorder, to social disorders and the physically handicapped.
Snyder says the equine assisted activities provide many benefits to many different participants, not just to the physically and mentally handicapped, but to the emotionally and socially handicapped as well. “The rodeo is designed to include a fun environment that makes the children want to participate,” he said. “Because of the event we have seen an increase in self-confidence, self-awareness and discipline, and a lot of the children benefit from the exercise of riding the horse.”
Known as hippotherapy, the method provides physical, occupational and speech therapy by using horses and their movement as they walk. The movement of the rider on the horse is similar as if you were walking, explains Dr. Snyder. In many cases, children who are autistic respond to the horse’s movement, which provides a calming experience that can bring out the best in the kids, he said. For others, such as children with cerebral palsy, the tightened muscles become relaxed and loosen while on the horse.
“The connection between the rider and the horse you can actually see,” said TREAT graduate assistant Tonya King, who plans to pursue a career in counseling psychology utilizing equine assisted therapy. “The horses have special characteristics that sometimes help build the rider’s relationships faster than with people. It teaches them coordination, helps with their flexibility and fine motor skills, such as holding onto the reins.”
For more information about the equine assisted therapy program, visit http://www.tarleton.edu/treat/. A video featuring TREAT can also be viewed online at http://system.tamus.edu/video/dimensions/tarleton/.
To be a TREAT rodeo volunteer or to inquire about other opportunities, contact Dr. Snyder at (254) 968-9656, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tarleton State University
A member of The Texas A&M University System
Contact: Kurt Mogonye