Therapeutic horseback riding enhances Cartersville teen’s well-being
by Marie Nesmith
Apr 27, 2014 | 2705 views | 0 0 comments | 57 57 recommendations | email to a friend | print
During her therapeutic riding lessons at Beyond Limits, Maya Adams works on balance and horsemanship skills while building her self-confidence. Since taking lessons with the Cartersville nonprofit — and previously at another operation located in Dallas, Maya — who is legally blind and has been diagnosed with epilepsy and learning disabilities — has experienced strides in her overall well-being. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
During her therapeutic riding lessons at Beyond Limits, Maya Adams works on balance and horsemanship skills while building her self-confidence. Since taking lessons with the Cartersville nonprofit — and previously at another operation located in Dallas, Maya — who is legally blind and has been diagnosed with epilepsy and learning disabilities — has experienced strides in her overall well-being. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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Beyond Limits Therapeutic Riding Instructor Kristen Moreland helps Maya Adams with her helmet before they leave the stable for an hour-long session. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Beyond Limits Therapeutic Riding Instructor Kristen Moreland helps Maya Adams with her helmet before they leave the stable for an hour-long session. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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Maya Adams, right, completes an eye drill with Kristen Moreland, her therapeutic riding instructor at Beyond Limits. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Maya Adams, right, completes an eye drill with Kristen Moreland, her therapeutic riding instructor at Beyond Limits. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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With a sparse breeze wafting through the air and clear skies overhead, Maya Adams cut through the stifling heat Thursday, leading Cash through a number of drills and patterns. Handling the quarter horse’s reins, the 14-year-old Cartersville resident followed directions trumpeted by Beyond Limits Therapeutic Riding Instructor Kristen Moreland, who guided Adams from warm-ups to trotting and cantering.

“They’re awesome here at Greenridge [Stables],” Maya said about the 300-acre Cartersville horse farm, where Beyond Limits is providing therapeutic riding lessons. “They’re all loving and caring and I feel like family here.

“[What I enjoy most is] cantering. It’s when you go really, really fast. It can take a minute to get used to [but it is a lot of fun now], especially with this one,” she said, referring to Cash. “She’s laid back.”

Along with being legally blind, Maya has been diagnosed with epilepsy, learning disabilities and balancing issues. Taking lessons at Beyond Limits since the organization formed in 2013, Maya has made significant strides in her overall well-being since initially being introduced to therapeutic horseback riding three years ago.

“As far as [her] balance and [her] coordination goes, she’s made huge improvements,” said Maya’s mother, Melissa Adams. “Because of the way the horse moves, it mimics a person’s gait so it helps to strengthen their core muscles and her overall balance has gotten better because of that. As far as following directions and those kinds of things, the instructor obviously gives her lots of instructions and [Maya] has to remember different patterns and the right way to saddle a horse and groom a horse — all of those things come into play with that. So she’s had to learn how to do all of that on her own.

“... Riding is something that she can succeed at, something she’s good at all on her own. It is [heartwarming to watch]. When we go to various shows — we do regular horse shows as well as Special Olympics — it’s really nice to see her hard work pay off.”

Established by Dr. Kimberly Oviedo, along with her husband, Howard, and brother, Robert Black, Beyond Limits — a member of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International — serves special needs children and adults residing in Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb and Floyd counties. Currently, the nonprofit is providing lessons to about 20 riders, experiencing a variety of health diagnoses, such as autism, epilepsy and physical impairments.

Beyond Limits’ riding facility is located at Greenridge Stables, 55 E. Greenridge Road in Cartersville. With Greenridge Stables also conducting lessons and shows as well as working with troubled youth, the venue’s owner/operator Beth Green Ellenburg was pleased to embrace Beyond Limits, calling it a natural extension of her current offerings.

“There are many factors that led us to form Beyond Limits,” said Oviedo, who also serves as the organization’s executive director. “The foremost was the fact that I have two special needs children who have greatly benefited from both hippotherapy as well as therapeutic riding. Seeing and experiencing the benefits firsthand really inspired us to want to help other families who have special needs children. Having a special needs child is a daily, yet very rewarding challenge and it’s nice to be able to relate with other families who experience many of the same experiences.

“There were no other therapeutic riding programs in Cartersville and [the] surrounding area, which meant for anyone from this area to experience the benefits of these services [it] required driving very long distances. Realizing other parents were going through the same struggles of locating services, especially in one centralized location, we decided we could offer these services right here in Cartersville. We collaborated with a few other parents who desired these services for their own children — who now also volunteer daily in our program — to take Beyond Limits from a dream to a reality. Also, working 22 years in the medical field myself as a licensed audiologist, I wanted to have my own private practice to be able to serve the children in this area.”

For Moreland, the opportunity to witness Maya’s transformation over the past several years has been a rewarding experience.

“She was extremely shy,” said Moreland, who previously instructed Maya at another facility. “She was extremely nervous. She was not very talkative at all when I first met her. But now she absolutely loves the horses. That’s all she ever talks about. That’s all she wants to do.

“... It just has really opened her up. She’s much more personable. She’s much more social. She smiles a lot more and her overall quality of life, I would say, has improved tremendously and ... her balance, her self-confidence have both improved as well.”

According to www.beyondlimitsriding.org, therapeutic horseback riding can benefit people with numerous diagnoses, some of which include attention deficit hyperactive disorder/attention deficit disorder, autism spectrum disorders, brain injuries, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and spinal cord injury.

“Generally, no matter what the disability, they tend to gain confidence,” Moreland said. “Some obviously their disability is more severe than others, so in some we might work on balance and others we might work on social skills or listening or following directions, something as simple as that. Others we might work on the fine motor skills and we’ll incorporate different kind of games into that. ... We give our kids the opportunity to compete at the Special [Olympics Georgia] Horse Show and we get them prepared for that, but we also compete locally at able-bodied horse shows.

“... Being part of a team just kind of creates that camaraderie and gives you something to look forward to, where a lot of people with disabilities they don’t really have that much to look forward to. So it gives them just a better outlook on life in general. So it’s something that they can be proud of. I love [being a therapeutic riding instructor]. I enjoy watching the kids enjoy themselves, like when they finally understand something or when they learn a new skill. ... I just get so much joy inside when that happens.”

To further serve those with special needs, the organization also opened the for-profit Beyond Limits Pediatric Therapy Center, 3950 Cobb Parkway, Suite 801, Acworth, April 22.

“We provide services from birth to age 21 for audiology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and language therapy, floor time, social skills groups and summer camps,” Oviedo said. “The center ties into the therapeutic riding program because many of the children who need the clinical therapies can obtain greater and faster benefits by combining with hippotherapy or therapeutic riding. For example, rather than using a therapy ball, the horse can be utilized as the modality. Many children with special needs spend hours and hours a week inside clinics and this affords them the opportunity to be outside, be able to bond with the horse and receive therapy without even realizing it.   

“Often, special needs families must drive to several different places to receive weekly services. Besides the time and financial strain on the family, it is very tiring for the child and siblings. Having more options in one place allows for a more convenient therapy schedule as well as better collaboration between therapists, and thus better treatment for the child. There are many benefits that come from utilizing the horse in a therapy setting — improved muscle tone and posture, self-esteem, independence, getting out of a wheelchair, improved listening skills and attention to name a few.”

She continued, “... The two programs also tie together because many children who receive hippotherapy graduate into therapeutic riding, which affords them even greater independence. While the clinic only sees birth to age 21, there is no maximum age for the therapeutic riding program. Therapeutic riding builds off the skills that are learned or being learned in therapy as well. While building confidence in the rider, they are also working on following directions, planning, balance and strengthening muscle tone. The sense of accomplishment and pride from learning a new skill or participating in a horse show is immensely beneficial. Many special needs children are unable to, or have a very hard time participating in team sports. Therapeutic riding offers the life lessons being involved in sports merits us, while being able to function independently.”

Trying to inspire people with special needs to reach their full potential, Oviedo said the organization’s title was selected to encourage individuals to break through any preconceived limits.

“The name Beyond Limits was derived from the fact that we all have ‘perceived’ limits that we’re told we can’t go beyond,” Oviedo said. “Knowing this, we wanted a name that encourages people to try, which ties into our tag line ‘Got Limits? Go Beyond!’ So many people are told they will never obtain certain physical, mental, educational or even life goals. Our belief at Beyond Limits is that your only limitation is that which you set yourself, and you can go always push those limits and go beyond anything.    

“Through our two programs we want to provide a convenience to the families who need multiple services, as they can receive all of their therapies at basically one place, either the barn or the center, which are only four miles apart. Many disabilities are not one-dimensional and most kids will need multiple therapies throughout the duration of their life. I love that we are now able to offer all these services to them, giving them the opportunity to travel to only one location and coordinated on one day a week when possible. This saves countless hours in the car and in waiting rooms and gives them more free time to be enjoying their lives. ... We want everyone to be the best they can be and we know these programs will help individuals reach their full potential.”

Along with calling 770-917-5737, more information can be obtained about Beyond Limits Therapeutic Riding and Beyond Limits Pediatric Therapy Center by visiting www.beyondlimitsriding.org or www.beyondlimitstherapy.org, respectively. Through Beyond Limits Therapeutic Riding’s website, supporters also can place tax-deductible donations, which would assist the nonprofit in a variety of ways, such as sponsoring horses or riders, or contributing to the organization’s operating fund.