Ortonville, MI — March 4, 2019
We all have different ways of relaxing and getting away from the stresses of everyday life. For some, it’s a walk in the woods, a visit to a favorite fishing pond with a pole in hand. Others look forward to snowmobile rides in winter, dirt biking during the warmer months. A favorite activity of young and old alike is horseback riding.
All of these activities, that we take for granted, are but a dream for many people with special needs. An organization with a group of committed volunteers is making that dream come true in a special way with horse therapy.
Offering Alternative Therapy with Smiles(O.A.T.S.) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a goal to provide “a lot of smiles to children and adults with a wide variety of physical and emotional disabilities.”
O.A.T.S is located in Ortonville and is a therapeutic horseback riding facility that serves the special needs community of Southeastern Michigan. With 14 full-size horses, two miniature horses, a pony, three miniature donkeys, five goats, three ducks, three cats, a pregnant cow, countless chickens, and a miniature pot-belly pig, interaction with the animals that call O.A.T.S their home is a day of fun. They, along with the highly trained, certified instructors and barn volunteers help those with physical and cognitive needs live a fuller life.
Volunteer Kendra Rogers explained. “Horseback riding provides a special body and mind connection that helps everyone grow and experience movement differently. The other animals and facilities’ 40 acres of pasture land provide a scenic and fun environment for riders and their families. Many visitors bring food scraps to feed the goats and Mitzi the pig who is always ready with a thankful snort.”
Benefits of Therapeutic Riding Include:
- Improves balance, flexibility, muscle strength and tone
- Develops communication, listening and attention skills
- Encourages social interaction
- Builds confidence and self-esteem
O.A.T.S participates in community events throughout the year to bring in more families who will benefit from the therapeutic riding experience. They also host, open to the community, events on the property so families can meet the animals and interact with the staff.