Equestrian Therapy – Step Up into T.L.C

It is a beautiful Wednesday morning in Tucson. Right about now there are preschoolers shrieking on a jungle gym, first graders pouring on to the playground. Older children look longingly out of the school window and think about recess. At a hospital, no child takes play for granted. The opportunity to forget for a moment why they are in the hospital, to be just children is precious and powerful.

Our new pediatric unit and rooms were developed to have a home like feel, and for there to be opportunities for play, but we’re aided in these efforts by the non-profit organization, Step Up into T.L.C.. Step Up is an unusual opportunity that arrives every other Wednesday in the form of Nancie Roahrig, her four-legged friends, and a group of volunteers. Nancie and the volunteers bring a mini herd of miniature horses and a beautiful Clydesdale to provide a safe, positive experience that brings pure joy to our youngest patients.

The children have the opportunity to connect, to pet, to take for a walk or even ride the horses. The benefits of such experiences cannot be measured or confined to emotional well being. Equine therapy, Nancie suggests, has the potential to help with motor skills, to encourage a child who has been confined and sedentary to make a nervous first step, and provides a focus outside of their medical condition to communicate breaking down barriers that were there previously.

A recent Wednesday, the young patients emerge to find the herd of miniature horses and J.J., the Clydesdale, waiting to dispense their special brand of medicine. Some of the children rush unabashed to soak up the affection that these gentle horses provide. Nuzzling into the soft hair, petting their coats, the children positively leap at the chance to interact with the horses. Other children hold back, nervous about the proximity of these beautiful horses, but this nervousness lasts only a few moments. The horses, Nancie and the volunteers gently coax even the shyest child to reach out and touch, and with that touch you see the child relax. What wonderful medicine that is.

Step Up Into T.L.C. is a non-profit organization that provides its services free of charge to pediatric units and hospices and relies entirely upon charitable donations. You can find out more about the Step Up Into T.L.C program here.