Dick Hansen leads a horse slowly around a dusty paddock. With silver hair and a gentle smile, he strokes its ear to calm it so that its rider, Emma Ashcraft, 7, who has cerebral palsy, can toss a ball into a target.
Emma smiles ear-to-ear, but just as importantly, the gentle rocking as she rides the horse widens her hips and strengthens her core and leg muscles. The exercise helps her walk better.
For a decade, Hansen has been volunteering with Ride To Walk, which provides horse therapy for young people with disabilities. He knows the stress a child’s disability can bring and wants to make it easier for families to stay together. “I think of the parents 24-7 with these children,” he said. “I can dedicate a few hours a week. They are so appreciative. We’re helping them as well as the child.”