Animals have a healing power all their own. No one knows this better than therapeutic horseback riding center Walk on Farm in Barrington. The organization has been helping children and adults with disabilities since 2006.
The non-profit organization works with a wide variety of people with disabilities ranging from autism to behavioral disorders, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. Riding a horse can help these people in a number of ways.
“When you’re riding a horse, the rider’s pelvis rotates almost identical to walking. The horse is very rhythmical…it seems to be the most effective thing is that the motion is repeatable and rhythmical. With children and adults with physical disabilities, you can see where that would help,” said Mary Illing, program director and co-founder of Walk on Farm.
For those with learning disabilities or autism, riding a horse has many benefits as well. Allowing the person to be in motion but sitting still at the same time “allows them to get their brains to a place that’s just right,” Illing explained.
“Kids with autism have a very highly sensitive sensory system…that repeatable rhythmical motion really does help regulate their sensory system,” she said.
Walk on Farm has changed countless lives for the better. Illing has seen many success stories, and mentioned one that brought her to tears.
Illing shared the story of a woman who came to the farm from Hospice. She was afflicted with a Parkinsons-like disease and had minimal control of her muscles. She could no longer speak. Illing and the staff got her onto a horse named Taco where she was able to guide him with the opening and closing of her right hand. The woman and Taco had an instant bond.
“She would get off and we would bring the pony over and they would commune. It was as if we did not exist. He would nestle his head into her lap. It was really touching. I was privileged to see this,” she said.
One day, Illing came out to feed the horses breakfast but Taco refused to eat. It turns out Taco’s behavior was directly related to the well-being of his friend. He knew something was wrong.
“The woman had passed away that morning,” Illing said in tears.
Walk on Farm Fundraiser
Walk on Farm cannot provide services to people in need without the help of the community. The organization charges a minimal fee for lessons, but that fee does not make up for the costs involved to run the organization.
The group is holding one of its Disco Dance Party fundraiser on Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. at Biltmore Country Club, 160 Biltmore Drive, North Barrington. Tickets are $90 per person and proceeds directly benefit Walk on Farm.
“We rely heavily on private donations. We have several fundraisers and we do some grant writing. We are always looking for people who want to help volunteer,” Illing said.
To purchase tickets to the fundraiser, call (847) 381-4231. To donate or learn more about Walk on Farm, visit walkonfarm.org.