Healing Steps, a horse therapy center in Battle Ground, recently acquired land to expand its business into Brush Prairie.
Owner Kelsey Herman said the expansion will help cut down on an over year-long wait list for services for clients with disabilities.
“Healing Steps is an occupational therapy practice that provides hippotherapy, which is when an occupational therapist provides a horse in a treatment session,” Herman said. “Right now, my caseload is anywhere from 3 (years old) to my oldest, who is 38. I use horses to address anything from physical, social, and emotional differences, and I manipulate the horse to be able to work on addressing whatever goals the patient has.”
For the past two years, she said Healing Steps has rented property at the Grace Therapeutic Horse Program. Since the Grace Therapeutic Horse Program has others who utilize the space, Herman has not been able to provide all of the services she wants because of the property’s restrictions.
“I’ve been in this weird spot where I have the ability to hire and I have the ability to expand, but I haven’t been able to because I don’t have more access to the facilities, so for seven days a week, I can now hire as many therapists as I need to support the demand,” she said. “I’m super excited to no longer tell families when they call that ‘oh, we’re a year out and have a waitlist, so don’t expect to hear from me,’ and I’m excited not to say that anymore, honestly.”
Herman said the facility on the land she purchased will be constructed “from the ground up,” which she started doing on June 29. She plans to build a barn which includes a heated treatment room, an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible bathroom, and concrete paths, which she said is important because she serves clients with wheelchairs.
“It’s going to be an overall big improvement, and of course, the (greater) access to the barn is going to be pretty invaluable,” Herman said.
Herman said the way a horse moves when a person rides it brings benefits for people with physical disabilities, like helping people with their balance.
As for those with sensory difficulties, she said the horse’s consistent rhythm keeps that person calm. With the emotional component, Herman said the therapy helps people learn about empathy, partnership and patience.
“For some of my friends with anxiety that really want to control their environment, horses are big animals and can’t control everything they do, so the horses are a really great tool,” she said. “It’s hard with a human relationship to build one, so the horses are a really great tool to learn those skills in a completely different way.”
Herman said she serves a variety of clients. She’s helped autistic people, as well as people with down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and Prader-Willi syndrome, among others. She also serves typically-developing individuals who don’t have a specific diagnosis, but have difficulty with emotional regulation.
Since Herman serves about 14 clients a week, she said she’s always looking for volunteers, especially once their expansion at the Brush Prairie location is complete. With new therapists, she hopes to extend the sessions to 40 or 50 a week.
At the moment, Herman said Healing Steps has six horses. There’s Ginger, a quarter horse who was rescued from the Adopt-a-Horse program, who is best for clients who are a little more hesitant or inexperienced around horses. Herman said Ginger has a “gentle, calm demeanor” that makes clients feel comfortable. Another horse is Diamond. Kids are able to paint on the all-white horse, who was previously a rodeo horse. Diamond has been at Healing Steps for the past six years.
“They all have different speeds, different sizes, and different movements, and that’s on purpose because I need different types of movement to address different things,” Herman said. “Sometimes a horse will move their body more side-to-side versus up-and-down, and depending on that individual’s needs, I select the horses based off of their gait and how it matches with the patient. And so we have a wide range of horses and they’re all so kind and so sweet. I swear that the kids and young adults are more excited to see the horses than me when they come to therapy, and it’s really sweet.”
Although the land at Brush Prairie has already been acquired, Healing Steps is still raising funds to build the facilities on the property.
Healing Steps is currently located at 12608 NE 299th St., Battle Ground. More information can be found online at healingstepstherapy.org.
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