In my February 24th post about the UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases, I talked about the free rein accorded the scientists there whom we support in their work to eradicate gastrointestinal tract disorders. It’s immensely satisfying to know how much more than that they’re accomplishing along the way – larger-scale benefits that never occurred to us when we wrote the first check.
In a less direct but equally compelling way, I feel the same sense of welcome serendipity when I watch this video about The Ride On Therapeutic Horsemanship. That organization puts thousands of disabled people, and especially children, on horseback so that the very movement of the animals has beneficial impact on the riders’ bodies.
The Melvin and Bren Simon Foundation hosts their annual fall fundraiser at my home in California, an all-the-more-satisfying investment on our part as Ride On has a great scholarship program and never turns anyone away for lack of funds.
Importantly, the benefits for the disabled go beyond their muscles and joints and bones; the therapeutic impact of the horse riding has direct connection to learning and speech pathologies as well. It’s holistic in the truest sense, affecting both psyche and soma.
Austin, the young man with Down syndrome featured in the video, is a great example of that. According to his mother, he talks more, uses words more, after he rides. I’m exhilarated by that; I’m exhilarated by how singular benefits blossom into multifaceted benefits, or, to use the cliche, “gifts that keep on giving.”
I suppose a horse ride might be deemed “alternative therapy” for Down syndrome or for the myriad of other disabilities afflicting Ride On’s 7,000 annual beneficiaries. They’re alternative treatments in another way too because they don’t feel like therapy. The horse rides are fun and exciting – the castor oil now tastes more like licorice – even as they serve the same goals as the conventional grueling regimens.
Lesson: In any field of treatment, traditional and alternative therapies needn’t be mutually exclusive. To the contrary, both are important, and both approaches work in synch. For goodness sakes, if we could cure the world by having fun, why wouldn’t we!