Downeast Non-Profit Uses Horses to Heal Others

MILBRIDGE, Maine (WABI) A growing Downeast non-profit is using a non-traditional therapy to treat patients of all ages.

"There's just some type of magic that you can't get from anything but horses," says Ann Alley.

There's no telling how far back the bond between humans and horses goes.

For Alley, it goes back to her childhood.

"I've had horses for 20, 20 odd years now," she says.

She says having horses helped build her confidence through the years.

Now she's helping others through hippotherapy, a technique that uses the movement of horses to help others with physical, occupational or speech therapies.

"Who would've thought that a horse and just the natural thing a horse does could be so beneficial to the human physically and spiritually and mentally? It just touches on all of that," says Alley.

She's partnered with Heather Anderson, a physical therapist, to form Whispering Pines Equine Alliance.

Anderson says the motions used can be much more beneficial than anything she can do at her practice.

They're expanding to open a year-round arena to help kids like Noah.

"Noah was diagnosed at four with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy," says Laurie Alicea.

His mom says there is no cure and no treatment.

"This is heartbreaking, but he's just changed a lot being around the horses and being around the people," she says.

And, Zoe, who has a muscular condition that makes her prone to falling and says hippotherapy helps with every step.

"I think it's helped my motor skills and helped me stay more balanced," she says.

Some days those steps are so hard for her.

"Last week she had a fall that ended up sending us to the emergency room," says her mom, Janet Blomgren.

Those days are overshadowed by days when she's working with the horses.

"Once they get to working with the horses, the transformation that happens with them, it's really amazing to watch. This can really change your life," says Sandy Cunha, a volunteer who also went through the program.