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Medical Edge: Horse Therapy

CINCINNATI (WKRC) -- A new program is helping kids at Cincinnati Children's Hospital overcome mental health challenges in a whole new way.

Medical reporter Liz Bonis tells us what makes this therapy quite a ride in today's Medical Edge.

Hard to believe that Charlotte, a soft spoken young teen, has ever struggled with what she says put her in the hospital weeks ago for mental health help.

"I had depression, anger and aggression," says fourteen year old Charlotte.

Now, both Charlotte and Taviance, another teen also getting help with similar concerns, credit these beautiful horses and what's called Equine Facilitated Learning with:

"Helping me to get along better with my family," says Charlotte.

"I feel happy and excited a lot," says sixteen-year-old Taviance.

Laura Benza is the program director for the Therapeutic Riding and Horsemanship Group that brings these horses to the kids.

"They groom the horses, develop a relationship with the horses, lead them around, do lots of skills to get comfortable to on the ground, and then eventually, hopefully, they get on," says Benza. 

Benza works along with Kristi Van Vranken, a recreational therapist, to select the kids best suited for interaction with the horses.

"Our basic goal with this program is for the kids to learn how to build relationships with a neutral party. They don't know their background or their history or what they've done," says Vranken.

The mission of course is to introduce them to a kind of therapy that you simply can't get perhaps with another person or even in a classroom.

It sort of brings to life what happens when we are outside, one with nature, and more importantly with animals that reach us. 

"It's really a cool environment for them to be able to relate to somebody or something who just judges them for who they are and loves them unconditionally," says Vranken.

It's easy to see what that unconditional love adds to the lives of these kids. Not just by what they say about the horses, but by what they say back from where they've been.

"I love animals," says Taviance.

"I just would like to say thank you for all your help," says Charlotte.

The Cincinnati Therapeutic Riding and Horsemanship Program does depend partially on donations to help provide these programs.

We do have a link for more information if you can help at

We will follow up with these patients in about six weeks to see how they are riding along.




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