For Naperville resident, Katelyn Morton, riding on a horse is not just a hobby, it’s a way to connect to the world.
Katelyn has mild autism, so communicating and having self-confidence can be a challenge. But, she’s been able to strengthen those skills thanks to the Winfield based not-for-profit organization, FTEA.
“Friends For Therapeutic Equine Activities was formed in 1996 so that we could provide therapeutic horseback riding for children and adults with special needs,” said Nancy Winkelman, FTEA Program Director. “We serve individuals with physical, cognitive and emotional challenges, and we do that with our 11 horses and ponies.”
FTEA is accredited by P.A.T.H.- The Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship, and meeting the criteria, is not an easy task, with over 330 standards in place. But, the payoffs are many.
“People may find that it helps them improve their balance, it strengthens their core, it helps people understand their left and right differential, its also wonderful for improving someone’s self-esteem and self-confidence,” said Winkelman.
The skills learned through the FTEA program help participants communicate with the horses, which in turn helps them throughout life.
“When your disabled, you have more challenges and doing something that you really enjoy really does help you transfer that to other areas, and it increases your skill level in having more self-confidence so that you can do other things,” said Betsy Morton, Mother of FTEA participant, Katelyn Morton.
With over 900 riding sessions each year, the organization is proud that they can give people like Katelyn a chance to shine.
“Once they’re on their horse and they’re riding their lesson, you’re not looking at them as someone with a disability, you’re looking at them as someone who has achieved some measure of horsemanship skills and they now are able to ride,” said Winkelman.
“I love horses so it’s really, really fun experience,” said Katelyn Morton, FTEA participant.
All horses and equipment used at FTEA are donated, and have helped serve almost 3,000 program participants.
FTEA is always looking for more volunteers to join the program with no experience needed. For more information visit ftea.org.
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