MIAMI – It’s estimated that 500,000 children in the U.S. have cerebral palsy which is an incurable condition that affects the ability to walk and causes an inability to maintain posture and balance.
Research has found that horseback riding is a viable treatment to help these children achieve improved functional mobility.
When Michael Hereu was born 14 weeks premature with a host of serious medical issues, doctors didn’t believe he would survive.
“His percentage was five percent to live,” said his father Juan Hereu.
After seven months in the hospital Michael came home and is now 10 years old.
“People at the beginning tell you it’s going to be a life full of headaches a life full of misery,” Hereu said.
Michael’s parents never gave up hope that they could help him beat the odds against everything he was facing, including a diagnosis of cerebral palsy which is triggered by an injury to the brain.
“What happens down the line is that the muscles in the whole motor system actually starts to have movement disorders and this is the progressive part of cerebral palsy that we see over the course of a lifetime,” said Dr. Verena Schreiber, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon with Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Coral Gables, Fla.
Just before the pandemic struck, Michael started participating in weekly sessions at the Whispering Manes Therapeutic Riding Center in west Miami-Dade.
“This is a program where people don’t just come one time they come each week and you see the difference constantly,” said Robin Bramson, Program Director and head riding instructor at Whispering Manes.
Recently a team of researchers from Korea and the U.S. found that horseback riding therapy can improve mobility for children with cerebral palsy.
“It’s definitely, in terms of the therapies that we’re offering to children with movement disorders, it’s definitely a good adjunct to have,” Schreiber said.
“It’s very tiresome you have to stabilize the horse moves you front to back side to side up and down all those things,” Bramson added.
Michael’s parents say there’s no question the therapy has made a difference in his mood and his movements.
“It’s a blessing, it really is a blessing. Helping him reach his goals has enriched our lives,” Hereu said.
Horseback riding therapy typically is not covered by insurance but some healthcare spending accounts may reimburse for the cost.
For more information, visit: https://whisperingmanes.org/