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Can A Horse Heal A Heart?

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One of the horses Karen Whitefoot uses for therapy. (WWJ/Sandra McNeill)

One of the horses Karen Whitefoot uses for therapy. (WWJ/Sandra McNeill)

sandramcneill Sandra McNeill
After graduating from the University of Michigan, Sandra McNeill...
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DETROIT (WWJ) – Karen Whitefoot loves horses. When she rides, she said, her troubles float away.

Whitefoot, who by day is a psychiatric nurse at Beaumont Hospital, founded “Horses Heal Hearts” and brought along two horses and several ponies to the Rutherford Newton Academy in Detroit to offer free rides to the students.

Five-year-old Isiah Patton had a blast. “That was fun on a horse. So fun,” said Patton. “I’m not scared.”

Horse Therapy 2 (SMcNeill)Whitefoot admits there are those who just aren’t horse people. But for many, she said, when they ride such a large majestic animal, “They feel empowered. They get a sense of self-esteem and they get a sense of calm. You have to overcome your fear. You have to overcome a lot of things to be able to get up on that animal and go for a ride.”

Recently Whitefoot’s group brought some horses to a sixth birthday party for the daughter of a slain police officer. “We walked up to the house to a very sad, sad place. When we left three hours later, we had a lawnful of children who were giggling, they were wearing fake mustaches, they had cowboy hats on. They had a three hour break from their grief and it was beautiful.”

Whitefoot has worked with therapy horses before and said the experience taught her they can help many children. They can help improve the gait of those who suffered for Cerebal Palsy, she said.

“I saw some kids with autism that had never spoken get up on a horse, smiled and actually said words. It’s watching magic,” Whitefoot said.

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