Sprout Center in Virginia is an unusual riding school. They offer hippotherapy – neurophysiological exercises using horses. School students are children with special needs and adults with physical or psycho-emotional problems.
“They have a calming effect on you. They are able to feel how you feel. If I feel depressed or exhausted, they feel it and try to cheer me up, ”says Mars, one of the school’s students.
Sandra Rogers comes to the center with her daughter Gabby, who was born with a rare genetic disease called Movat-Wilson syndrome. This is serious brain damage. Sandra says that speech therapist Gabby suggested they go into hippotherapy:
“Remedial horse riding combines different therapies that can help her – this is physical therapy – horse riding, sensory development, occupational therapy, sensory integrative therapy. What they are doing here cannot be happening in the classroom or in the office environment. There is a very healthy atmosphere in which my daughter can feel good and be herself, where her unique talents can be appreciated. “
The founder of the school, former zoology teacher Brooke Waldron, has been in love with horses since childhood. Her uncle helped her build a riding school. Paralyzed and bedridden, he decided to invest all his savings in this business to help others.
According to Waldron, the Sprout Center’s goal is to transform people’s lives with horses and provide services to people with different needs – physical, cognitive, emotional and social:
“We are trying to create a community where people can feel like themselves. We are here to help people achieve their goals, and horses are a very good vehicle for them to do that. Horses are close to people, they help us understand ourselves, at the same time they are very patient and obedient. They are great partners to help us grow. Therefore, in the name of our center the word “Sprout” means “to grow” ”.
All trainers of the school undergo special training in order to teach horse riding to people with disabilities.
Nancy Lagassi has worked as a nurse all her life. When she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999, she said, she felt as if everything had been taken away from her. She even began to think about suicide. The disease progressed rapidly, and Lagassi almost completely lost the ability to walk. She heard about Sprout from a friend.
“When I’m in the saddle, I can do things that I can’t do in my daily life. I can easily stand up in stirrups – while it is usually very difficult for me to get up. This school, in fact, gave me wings so that I could fly. Before, I didn’t have confidence in myself, the feeling that I was worth something. But over time, I learned to accept life again with gratitude, a sense of self-confidence returned to me. Now – I’m a different person. I’m happy when I’m here, ”says Lagassi.
Sprout is a non-profit organization and is solely funded by donations. There are only 18 employees in the staff. All the rest – more than a hundred people – are volunteers.
“You form a special bond with horses. And you feel incredible when there is a feeling of trust between you and the horse, ”one of Noah’s students shares his impressions.
Now almost 180 students study at the center, and since its opening in 2010, about 3 thousand people have been able to master the basics of horse riding here.