Published May 21, 2019
Volume 3, Number 5

Reins in Motion Helps Those With Special Needs

Through Equine Therapy

Reins in Motion

By Hacienda Pulse Staff Writer

The Reins in Motion Foundation is a volunteer-based, nonprofit therapeutic riding program in Livermore. The foundation’s mission is to enrich the lives of individuals with special needs and life-threatening illness by connecting them to horses and outdoor activities that promote healing and growth in all aspects of their daily lives. The foundation provides services to riders as young as two and a half. Unlike some programs, Reins in Motion does not “age out” those riders when they turn 18. The program also accepts adult riders.

“Horseback riding promotes increased mobility, strength, coordination, balance, postural control, communication, and cognition,” says Katy Kempton, Executive Director of Reins in Motion. “While riding, our clients benefit from physical, occupational, and speech therapy as well as mental and emotional development.”

Riding on the back of a horse simulates human walking more accurately than any other therapy tool known to man, according to Kempton. The pelvis of a horse moves almost identically to the pelvis of a human. When walking, the human pelvis typically moves in three ways: in rotation (circles), anterior to posterior (front to back), and lateral (side-to-side). When a horse walks, the horse’s pelvis moves in the same three dimensions.

Moreover, a horse's movement is rhythmic, repetitive, and fluid, she says. The body heat and movement of a horse helps decrease a rider’s spasticity in tight muscles. When a horse moves, a rider must activate muscles in order to stay upright and centered. Stronger core muscles lead to fine motor skills and speech production, according to Kempton, who has been certified as a riding instructor by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH).

“We have had several riders gain increased mobility for walking and improved speech due to riding,” notes Kempton. “But even more critical than physical benefits are the emotional ones. Horses bond with their human companions. They are nonjudgmental companions, only asking for love, care, play, and feeding. The relationships that develop between the rider, horse, teacher, and volunteers promote a can-do attitude, social skills, self-esteem, and feelings of accomplishment.”

The foundation also has a second PATH-certified instructor, Amanda Dortch; more than 30 volunteers; and about 50 clients who attend weekly sessions at the foundation’s ranch. In addition to helping the special needs community, RIM has a weekly two-hour program for local veterans called Reins for Heroes. The foundation also collaborates with the Taylor Family Foundation by taking horses to Camp Arroyo approximately 20 times per year. The foundation operates all year round. During the summer, it offers hands-on equine-based activities in a summer camp setting.

“We are hoping to start an early intervention program for toddlers as well as a program for dementia patients,” says Kempton.
The Reins in Motion Foundation was founded nearly eight years ago, during the summer of 2011. Volunteers and donations toward its operation make nonprofit equine therapy possible in the Tri-Valley. This year the foundation is holding its annual fundraiser on Sunday, Sept 29 at the Retzlaff Vineyards Winery in Livermore.  

For more information about the Reins in Motion Foundation or its fundraiser, please visit www.reinsinmotionca.com.