North Idaho

Special kids learn more than just riding skills at Idaho horse ranch

Special kids learn more than just riding skills at Idaho horse ranch

RATHDRUM, Idaho - A Rathdrum horse ranch is teaching a very special group of people how to ride horses, but their mission goes beyond just teaching a new skill.

Learning to ride a horse is something many kids dream of. But for Emma and Lily, these lessons at Running W Ranch Therapeutic Riding Center mean even more.

11 year-old Emma has Down Syndrome.

4 year-old Lilly has Cerebral Palsy and Autism.

When they're here, they're cowgirls.

"[During] a typical therapeutic riding session, we try to teach a riding skill and also have an activity," explained Executive Director Cyndie Wiltsie.

Wiltsie is certified in therapeutic horsemanship, and created this nonprofit about a year ago.

"I love just doing something that can make somebody else feel better or have something better in their life," Wiltsie said.

Interacting with these horses helps riders build physical strength, self esteem, and confidence.

"Eventually...I want them to progress to be able to be as independent as they can in riding," Wiltsie said.

Emma and Lily are some of Cyndie's first special needs clients.

During their lessons, the girls practice walking, brushing, and riding horses Tango and Boaz with the help of volunteers.

Their parents watch nearby.

"It's really interesting to see how calm she is on the horse," said Lilly's mother Krista Brookes.

"I think what they've done here is a fantastic thing," said Kent Roberts, Emma's dad. "It's a really nice alternative and addition to physical therapies and things like that."

Running W Ranch wants to grow and serve more people with special needs.

On Friday, they will host their first fundraiser, a dinner and auction.

"This is my love, my passion," Cyndie said. "I want this program to grow and succeed."

Cyndie says no matter their financial situation, people with special needs are welcome on the ranch.

As for Emma and Lilly, they're just eager to keep learning and riding, like the true cowgirls they are.

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