Monday, August 27, 2012

Disabled Patients Bet on Horse Therapy, and Hope Del Mar Event Pays Off

DelMar Carmel Valley Patch

Jennifer Gambrell recalls the case of an 18-year-old who became paralyzed from the neck down after a boating accident.
A horse came to the rescue.
After three years in the REINS Therapeutic Horsemanship Program—a nonprofit based in Fallbrook—the teen was able to sit up and hold his own rein because of the strength he built.
Almost 10 years from his first day at REINS, he now uses a walker and took part in a mile race, she said.

“We have all this technology today, but no one has been able to create a machine for spinal cord patients—and that's why horse therapy is so crucial,” said Gambrell, REINS development coordinator.
Her group will host its 20th annual fundraiser at the Del Mar Races on Sunday, Aug. 26. The nonprofit, which is selling tickets on its website as a fundraiser, will also collect donations and provide information for attendees at the Clubhouse Terrace. 
“The support of the community has gotten us this far and we love giving back through this service,” Gambrell said. “But we do need help.”

The longtime nonprofit was founded in San Marcos in 1984 before moving to Fallbrook in 1999. Today, it’s one of 808 horseback therapy riding programs in the world but ranks in the top 3 percent, she said.
REINS has four full-time employees, 14 part-time instructors and more than 100 volunteers, who serve about 200 students each week.

It's rewarding too, Gambrell said.
The program affords the disabled a chance to go outdoors and enjoy the simple act of riding a horse—“while receiving intense therapy,”  she said.

“Imagine being a student with low muscle tone and being able to ride a horse,” Gambrell said. “Imagine how much strength you would build in that short amount of time in riding a horse.”

Gambrell—who said many of REINS' students have cerebral palsy, autism and Down syndrome—said 132 vibrations from a horse exercises the rider’s muscles and also calms the patient.
“There’s the emotional, mental and physical benefits that really improve the quality of life for our students and, of course, that translates to the families too,” she said.
Though the program serves 200 students each week, Gambrell said it hopes to expand.
But community's support is needed. The program, which operates on an estimated $500,000 budget, is looking to raise more than $5,000 at the Day at the Races. In October, it hopes to raise $100,000 at its annual fundraiser Country Hoedown.

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