FOLSOM, La. — Folsom is well known for beautiful horse farms, including New Heights Therapy Center - a nonprofit equine therapy clinic.
New Heights offers adaptive therapy and hippotherapy. Noelle Miller is an occupational therapist who specializes in hippotherapy, something she has been teaching for 26 years. She says the movement of the horses influences the postural response in her patients and can illicit certain movements.
"It's like any other therapy in a clinic that a doctor would order," Miller said. "This is my clinic and the horse is my tool."
When we visited, Miller was working with Sarah who has a progressive neurological disease which presents like a traumatic brain injury.
"We work on perceptual motor skills, visual motor skills, fine motor skills, sitting balance, trunk balance, all of it," Miller said.
Sarah has only been at New Heights for four months and has made unbelievable progress physically and mentally.
"When you see her smile, she smiles like nobody else that comes out here. She loves to be on the horse," Miller said.
The other kind of therapy the farm offers is adaptive therapy.
"When people come out, you can just see their whole demeanor change," Vicki Eilande who teaches adaptive therapy. Eilande started as a volunteer at New Heights and now 10 years later she's the program and volunteer director. She also teaches adaptive therapy.
"I teach horsemanship skills to people with special needs so I adapt my lessons, the equipment I use, the tact that we use, so its appropriate for each individual rider and their needs and goals," Eilande said.
It's hard work physically for these participants, but we sat in on a session and you could see the joy! You can really see the connection between the riders and horses.
"Some people never dreamed they can ride a horse. So somebody that may have some physical, mental or emotional challenges - that might be something they never thought that they could do, but providing that opportunity is what makes it important to me," Eilande said.
WWL-TV reporter Leslie Spoon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow her on Twitter at @lesliespoonWWL