BY ELAINE FOXWELL | SEPTEMBER 5, 2012
Bentley scores a Triple R
Who would imagine that when Bentley first arrived at Triple R he would become an important member of a unique therapy program? On the surface, Bentley had three strikes against him-he was emaciated, eight years old and still untrained and a stallion.
Still Triple R President Ken Bacher knew there was something special about the 14.1-hand-high horse. He contacted Sahika Riley, founder of Horse Rhythm Foundation (HRF) and persuaded her to consider Bentley as an equine therapy horses.
Brandi Lyons took on Bentley's training, quickly teaching him the basics of good manners. With three months of being gelded, Bentley arrived at the HRF facility on his way to becoming an equine therapist. Although, he still has a long way to go with his training, he is showing that his calm disposition and intelligence will make him an excellent therapy horse.
HRF is a 501(c) organization that provides equine therapy to address the needs of wartime veterans, first responders and their families who have experienced mental health disorders and physical disabilities as a result of combat or civilian conflict.
Based at Thunderbird Mountain Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., HRF was founded by United States Air Force veteran Sahika Riley. An experienced Physician Assistant, Sahika saw a way to combine her medical knowledge, military experience and expertise with horses into a unique yet extremely effective rehabilitation program. Sahika holds a Masters Degree in Physician Assistant Studies with a specialty in Family Medicine and a Bachelor's in Medicine.
Dr. Carmen Meredith who serves as the President of HRF, is a retired United Air Force Veteran, and has a Doctorate in Health Sciences, and a Physician Associate (PA) degree in Medicine.Others assisting with the program include horse trainer Brandi Lyons and Michelle Johnson, driving director.
The program offers therapy October through June at the Thunderbird Mountain Ranch allowing clients to work in total privacy and safety.
Currently, HRF has six horses available with Bentley being the youngest. Although Bentley will not be used for therapy until he has had several more months of training, he is already has been introduced to many of the pieces of equipment used by people with disabilities such as wheelchairs and crutches.
"Due to his calm disposition, intelligence and ability to learn quickly, Bentley could be the best therapy horse in our entire program, Sahika says. "He accepted the wheelchair coming up beside him in less than a minute. Many horses take weeks to learn to ignore that."
At 14.1 hands and with his sturdy Quarter Horse build, Bentley is an ideal equine therapist for smaller clients, such as women, and amputees. "His trusting nature instills confidence in anyone he works with," Sahika.
Once Bentley enters his new life as a therapy horse, his training is by no means over. Along with all other equines in the program, Bentley will continue to learn new things as therapies evolve to meet new challenges for people with disabilities.
"Research shows wounded warriors, who participated in equine-assisted activities, can experience physical, emotional, and psychological rewards. Participants with impaired mobility experience increased balance, muscle control, and strength. Riding and equine interaction motivates participants with learning or intellectual impairments such as traumatic brain injury, and helps to increase concentration, calmness, and independence.
HRF's therapy programs use the standards of the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP), Equine Assisted Learning (EAL), and Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH, Intl). In addition, HRF has the support of the Veterans Affairs, and other organizations such as the Military Order of The Purple Heart.
"Through using equine assisted psychotherapy/learning, therapeutic riding, and equine-driving facilitated learning, our program allows us to help our military and first-responder personnel find their transition into healing," Sahika says.
And Bentley, the little horse who was saved from abuse and neglect, will be an integral and important component of that healing process.
For more information go to www.horserhythm.org, or call 602-432-2009.