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Fort Smith nonprofit offers physical therapy through horseback riding

On Saturday, April 30, Manes and Miracles will host its fourth annual Raise the Barn 5/10K Walk or Run with proceeds benefiting an expansion project.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — Therapy can utilize a variety of tools to help patients with individual needs. At Manes and Miracles, the tools used are horses.

Manes and Miracles is home to 10 horses who currently assist therapists utilizing hippotherapy. This is a specialized therapeutic technique that uses the natural gait and movement of a horse. The movement of the horse mimics the pelvic movement of people and provides riders with over 3,000 postural positions in a single 30-minute session.

"It's really impactful," said Jodi Kusturin, executive director at Manes and Miracles. "The movement of the horse trains the core, trains the brain and helps us lay down more foundational movement patterns so that we can learn how to tie our shoes, how to get in and out of a bathtub, how to run, how to walk, how to sit independently, how to talk, how to breathe."

It is this type of physical therapy that gives people the confidence to be more independent, improve balance, mobility, and gain strength. For Barrett Berg, hippotherapy has helped him begin to do things without the aid of a walker.

With a huge smile on his face before his session began Monday afternoon, Berg said, "The horse helps me walk the stairs better."

As Kusturin reflected back on her sessions, it's kids like Berg and others who have shown her that, "The child and the horse, they make a bond that's like no other."

Currently, Manes and Miracles leases barn and arena space in Barling but are in the process of trying to raise $2-3 million to build a brand new 4,000 square-foot barn and 14,000 square-foot covered arena that can be used year-round and not be impacted by weather.

"We're really at, pretty much, capacity until we can build our own facilities," Kusturin said.

On Saturday, April 30, Manes and Miracles will host its fourth annual Raise the Barn 5/10K Walk or Run with proceeds benefiting the project.

"Our own facility can be bigger so we can hold more therapy sessions, we can expand that to the waitlist that we have, and then also we can expand services to veterans in our area," said Amber Herndon, Development Director at Manes and Miracles.

The Raise the Barn event will use timed chips and there is still time and space to register. For more information about the race, you can visit the registration page here

For more ways to become involved as a volunteer or to enroll your child in equine therapy services at Manes and Miracles, you can visit its website.

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