You might have never heard the term ‘hippotherapy’ before, but the children and adults in the Austin area who have seen its results during treatment for things like cerebral palsy, stroke, and even speech impairment would surely swear by it. Rare by any standard, Nancy O’Meara Krenek is one of roughly fifty Hippotherapy Clinical Specialists in the entire United States – making the organization she founded, Ride On Center for Kids (R.O.C.K.), one of the most unique nonprofits in the Austin area.
For over 15 years, R.O.C.K. has provided equine-assisted activities and therapies to children and adults with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. Benefits from hippotherapy include increased muscle strength, flexibility, and fine motor skills, as wells as improved communication, proprioception (awareness of one’s body in space), and range of motion. While originally intended to serve children, years back Nancy was asked by a friend about the therapeutic benefits R.O.C.K. could provide for wounded soldiers – and R.O.C.K. Horses For Heroes was born. Active duty service members and veterans are referred to R.O.C.K. by a physician, then screen by one of R.O.C.K.’s therapists or riding instructors to determine the suitability of the treatment. Active duty military or veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), amputations, burns, or neurological impairment may benefit from the services of Horses For Heroes. Horses for Heroes is built on the foundation of “soldiers helping soldiers” and utilizes the camaraderie between servicemen and women to provide a healing environment. Veteran volunteers serve as side walkers and horse handlers and provide moral support to the participants.
Ride On Center for Kids accepts donations in many forms – monetary, volunteer time, horses, and even office supplies! Check out the R.O.C.K. wish list here. For more information about volunteering, please visit R.O.C.K.’s Volunteers page.