Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children

by Special Families Saint Julie Billiart (Familias Especiales Santa Julia Billiart)
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children
Provide HorseTHERAPY to 50 Nicaraguan Children

This is a report to say goodbye to all our supporters of horse therapy program in Matagalpa Nicaragua. With the COVID problem and the economic situation, horse therapy has to close its corrals. We are all sad but we believe that we did our best to provide an alternative therapy for many children who otherwise would not been able to improve their health and wellbeing.  This therapy created a natural environment for children with many different handicaps to work on improving their balance, flexibility, basic movement, strength, and muscle control.

   
We want to thank all our donors for believing in us and really helping us to reach many different goals. The children reached individual goals set for them with the therapists and the horses.  The horses motivated the children and the therapists. They all grew in confidence and stability.

Most of all we continued to offer quality therapy through qualified professionals and qualified horses that were safe and creative.  Mothers learned more about their children’s handicaps and how they could improve.  Staff shared in the lives of these families giving more and more support so the children could grow.  We have to leave this work now but we want to thank you for helping us develop it.  We want to thank you for believing in us and giving us much support in an alternate therapy that supported our program of physical therapy to reach muscles that only the movements of a horse could affect.  Thus discovering different ways for children to grow in health and confidence.
Thank you again for your support

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Horse therapy is on lockdown for COVID because of the delta variant. The horses are being taken care of now during the rainy season. The therapists contact the parents and the children by phone and converse about the children’s needs.
During this time, they are working on the therapy arena. Fixing the ramps and preparing for when they will return with the children. Martha is the physical therapist who is assisting Gustavo in this work. She has many years of experience and used to be Gustavo’s supervisor at the regional hospital. Her new task is organizing how we can better combine horse therapy and physical therapy. The parents are excited because of the energy that she brings to the treatment plans. She wants to help prepare the children so that horse therapy mixed with physical therapy and massage can make a difference in the lives of the children. She has organized the list of children combining the two therapies. Even though we are in lockdown, we keep close contact with each child. Martha is making sure that each one is aware of what exercises they can do in this time of COVID lockdown. We continue to use the two horses at the farm, and they are being treated to a rich diet so that their athletic strength can be maintained with daily exercises.
Gustavo is studying some new techniques using the horses and preparing for the return of the children.
It was a positive move to employ Martha so that the best of both worlds can be combined better. She is also updating staff and parents on the children who are part of the program, posting information on each child so that the social team can continue to be aware of the needs of each child. This helps integrate services and keeps each section ready to serve those children better when they return. We regret that one of the children has died from complications of his disability. His mother informed us a few days ago that his health deteriorated suddenly. Still, another suffering of COVID here is that people could not attend any of the services for this young man who had brought so much joy to his family and others. The whole social staff receives an in-depth online program on children with special needs presented by the American Embassy here in Nicaragua. This has been in the planning for three years and coming while most programs are on lockdown, it gives them more time to reflect on the materials. It is a six-month course with experts from the United States presenting various ideas on treatment and styles of work with children with disabilities.

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  Tuesdays are designated as special education days in our horse therapy sessions. Our special education assistant, Walter, who is blind, has motivated the mothers to become more involved in their children's therapy. On that day, the mothers take turns helping Gustavo guide the horses and learn more about the therapy. Walter works with them as they await their turn for therapy, sharing their stories of having a child with a handicap. We have found that this intervention has created a greater interest in the mothers giving them more poise in their interactions. They have developed a great respect and confidence in Walter as he helps them share more about their children's therapy. "Walter calls these sessions "horse grazing." Because it is as if the mothers are enjoying the quiet time to share and graze with each other.
Special Families have hired an additional physical therapist to help more children. The number of children who need therapy has increased with many first-time cases.
Darling, our other physical therapist, has been on maternity leave. The new therapist is the former head of physical therapy from the regional hospital.
She is excited about working in the community model instead of the medical model, which she led in the hospital setting. She is a highly skilled therapist with much experience and a deep love of helping others in rehabilitation. "Actually, this allows me to get to know the children and their mothers and to find new ways to help them reach their goals together. I like trying to get the mothers to help one another out and to find how much they have in common as they work with their children." This was never possible when she worked the medical model. She was Gustavo's boss when he started his first job, which was at the hospital. And now she is working alongside him to organize our annual Mother's Therapy Assembly. The assembly accomplishes three goals: 1. Recognition of therapy goals for each child and mother. 2. Create unity between mothers as they accompany their children with their therapy.
3. A forum for mothers and children to share their therapy experiences and give ideas for the future. The assemblies always create a lot of motivation and excitement. This year they are working on new ways to keep the COVID distancing and generate a learning atmosphere using more videos and doing more individual work with the mothers ahead of time. We are hopeful that this will create unity among the families. The majority are women heads of households. "They are becoming more interested in hearing each other's story. Since each child has different disabilities and reasons for being in horse therapy, it becomes fascinating," said Martha, the new therapist.
This is the last month of the Dry Season in Nicaragua, which is essential for horse therapy. We are trying to take advantage of this time. When the rains start, there are times that we cannot continue the horse therapy outside since we do not have a sheltered area. However, we have to move the therapy from the vast field to a well-conditioned front entrance to the Farm. The reason is that the field begins to become soggy and, at times, flooded during the rainy season.
We have a special ramp to help children mount the horses and continue their therapy in rain or shine.
The staff of integrated therapy wants to thank you for your support as they continue in these times of COVID.
Their prayers are with you in gratitude for the opportunities you give them to serve these children to reach their health and well-being goals.

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The horses helping Special Families are on Christmas vacation. So I thought it an excellent time to give you all an update on Horse Therapy in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. This year even with the pandemic, children have made great strides in their therapy. Some children have increased their neck muscles' strength to lift their heads, some have straightened their legs to walk, some have gained more confidence from the horses. Our titled therapist, Gustavo, continues to work with over 50 children whose development and motivation are vital to improving their health.
Relaxation is a side benefit of horse therapy, adding to the scientific therapeutic work. The therapist can activate the muscles unreachable in physical therapy and use the horse's natural movements, so horse anatomy is essential. Our children have found their balance improving as they strengthen muscles, posture, and flexibility by riding and receiving activities directed by Gustavo. The two horses' roles are vital in motivation during therapy to make self-esteem and personal confidence grow.       The now relaxed mothers who join the weekly therapy sessions also benefit. They learn about their children's disABILITIES and how they can continue the benefits while at home. During the pandemic, the horses were running. Still, the children were at home for several months, and the mothers were busy trying to keep their children moving. Gustavo was in contact by phone and social media. Exchanging pictures and holding the hope alive of returning to therapy. During this time, the maintenance crew improved the equipment used, including building a new ramp.
      Gustavo also used the time to brush up on his techniques and work with the horses on his farm. The return to therapy meant using masks and other sanitary precautions while relating to the other children and mothers. Mask-wearing often caused anxiety for the children, so they often removed them safely. We have not had any of the children or mothers contract COVID, thank God. 2020 was a challenging year, but the therapy that happened was vital and appreciated and gave the children the strength to keep on going and not lose hope.
      The love for horse therapy grew this year, and we know that your support makes a difference. The children intend to keep on riding and are grateful for this opportunity to offer horse therapy to families who otherwise would just be sitting at home. Special Families' goal is to find and open opportunities for people with disABILITIES to get out of their homes and improve their lives. Thank you for being with us on this mission.

Child waiting on new ramp for his turn  for riding
Child waiting on new ramp for his turn for riding
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horse therapy before quarentine looking back
horse therapy before quarentine looking back

Wow, the very air is filled with excitement, as Horse Therapy opens, after five months of quarantine. The therapist and new assistant are bringing the children to the farm for the first sessions, as nature greets them with sunshine, fresh air, and the neighing of the horses. Their equipment is ready: saddles, masks, and shields are all in place. Mothers and children are all set to ride, stretch, strengthen, and grow their muscles.

"We worked with families, by phone and internet to do exercises, but that virtual work doesn’t straighten legs for standing or strengthen neck muscles to lift heads, without the help of the horses, we found many children had lost what they had gained in therapy before the shutdown, “ said Gustavo, the Titled Horse Therapist. Each case is different, but all of the children have lost some muscle control, strength, balance, and flexibility. The long calls on the smartphones to parents did pay off in motivation, keeping the children moving, but there is no comparison to the Horse Therapy they will now receive at Special Families.

The horses went on a regimented diet and exercise program one week before to prepare for the children.  These horses are considered athletes, working with vulnerable, yet happy children. They were sad missing the children, according to the owner, they instinctively know that the children need them. The children also missed the horses, never losing their love of these large animals, even during the quarantine.

A strong hope lives in this large outdoor arena, where these children can quickly regain their muscle tone, strength, and balance relating to nature. The therapist created new goals for each child so that they can regain what they lost.  The horses appear to glide with an agility that they didn’t possess before the shutdown, they make a difference in each child's life, helping them to reach their goals.

The therapist and the assistant are learning how to wear their masks and shields, plus assist the children with theirs, in the heat, so that they can do this therapy safely.  Health precautions are challenging but well worth it, says Gustavo, as he is actively working to give more space and time for each child. Oscar, the assistant, is confident that he can work with the horses to ensure the safety of the children.

Good effective Horse therapy happens through teamwork. The whole team works together for balance, strength, tone, flexibility, and safety. Our team includes the therapist, the assistant, the parents, the horses, the children, as well as you, our supporters.   

Parents are grateful, more aware now of the benefits of working directly with a therapist, after trying to do the exercises alone, at home. They realize that Horse Therapy opens up new possibilities for their children's growth so they can reach their goals.

The organization is grateful that all avoided the virus, during the quarantine, and are continuing precautions, as they improve the livelihood of these families with children with disabilities.

Knowing that you are on our team, makes a difference as we re-open amid this pandemic. It is great to know that we are not alone.

The horses are contentedly gliding, the children are enjoying their ride, the mothers are smiling, the therapist and the assistant are giving their all, in gratitude for this opportunity that your donations made possible. Thank you!

children waiting hipoterpaia before masks
children waiting hipoterpaia before masks
goodbye before masks
goodbye before masks

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Project Leader:
rebecca trujillo
Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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