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Equine program helps kids with disabilities

Marie Postiglione-Dupell conducts a therapy session with Aiden at Medicine Horse Farm in Morrisonville.

Marie Postiglione-Dupell conducts a therapy session with Aiden at Medicine Horse Farm in Morrisonville. Photo by Stephen Bartlett.

“But I still wanted to open a small therapy program,” Postiglione-Dupell said.

She purchased her first therapy horse and eventually left her job for good, opening Medicine Horse Farm five years ago. Three years after that she became a nonprofit.

Postiglione-Dupell, a PATH International certified instructor, leads the sessions at Medicine Horse with the help of volunteers. She believes experiencing and riding horses improves the lives of individuals with disabilities who benefit from therapeutic riding, equine assisted activities, horticultural therapy and nature-based therapy at Medicine Horse Farm.

For example, the horse stimulates the rider’s pelvis and trunk in a manner that closely resembles the normal gait of a human. This can produce physical changes in the rider, including normalization of muscle tone and improvements in posture, balance, coordination and increased endurance.

Aiden Mars, 8, is diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome, a neuro-genetic disorder characterized by intellectual and developmental disability, sleep disturbance, seizures, jerky movements and frequent laughter or smiling. His family wondered if he would walk, a milestone he achieved while a participant at Medicine Horse Farm.

“It is unreal,” said Kirsten Ujida-Blair, Aiden’s community integration worker. “He is sleeping now.”

Therapeutic horseback riding also helps the communication and social and motor skills of people with autism.

“Medicine Horse has helped my son with his confidence and self esteem, and it has helped him with school and socializing and talking with peers and adults,” said Peggy LaPierre of Dannemora.

Her son Jacob is 11 and now better understands the differences in people and is much more verbal.

Postiglione-Dupell sees 24 people who range in age from 3 to adults, and would like to help more people. But issues such as weather cause scheduling conflicts, which means people miss therapy.

She is searching for grant money and any other financial support to construct an indoor arena.

Anyone interested in supporting Medicine Horse Farm or the program itself should visit www.medicinehorsefarm.org.

For now, she will continue to do the best she can with the help she has and her five horses.

“I get to see the journeys people take, and the families let me be part of their lives.”

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