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Riding for a Lifetime: Equine Therapy

Riding for a Lifetime: Equine Therapy

“Rehabilitation, or fixing, Neva isn’t our goal,” says Neva’s mother, Alicia. “We build on the strengths and gifts that she has, what she’s interested in—just like any other 14-year-old.” After a reflective pause, she continues, “And one of those interests and strengths is riding, just like I had when I was a kid. For us, horseback riding is not about ‘fixing’ someone, it’s about having fun.”

Due to a rare genetic syndrome, Neva will always have significant support requirements. But, what she also needs is a circle of friends, interests, and a community of support—needs common to us all. With horseback riding, Neva has a leg-up on her friends when she invites them to ride: she is the veteran, they are the novices. “She can bring something to their world, as well as others bringing something to her world with other activities,” says Alicia with a smile. “We all have gifts to offer.”

This inclusive language and way of interacting with their world is what all teens need. When Neva rides, she is just a kid having fun on a horse. This is the picture and reality that Alicia and many others are working to bring forward in every area of life. All kids want real relationships, real friendships. They want to eat pizza and Fritos, laugh, and have fun. So, that is exactly what Alicia works to provide, just like any other mom.

It took a while to find a place to ride since Alicia and Neva were looking for a stable that was not necessarily “therapy-specific.” They eventually found Silver Buckle Ranch in Brush Prairie, which offers a variety of beneficial programs, both therapy-specific and not.

To read more, pick up a copy of the May 2016 issue at any of these locations, or view the digital archive copy here.

Vivian Mattila Walikainen is blessed with a husband of 25 years, six children and three grandchildren who keep her learning, growing, and slightly off-balance. She lives in Battle Ground and recently earned a bachelor's degree in human development from Warner Pacific College.

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