Horse therapy center appeals to SC Lt. Gov. during tour

CSRA News

AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – South Carolina’s second in command stopped by to visit a local horse farm offering therapy programs.

Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette toured Great Oak Equine Assisted Programs in Aiken Monday to hear more about horse therapy.

Several horses at the facility, such as Boomer, are vital for people in need of therapeutic services.

NewsChannel 6 spoke with Nicole Pioli, Great Oak Equine Assisted Programs Director. She said, “Our riders are overcoming autism, brain aneurysm, stroke, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, down syndrome.”

The ‘therapy on a horse’ method is one more than 200 people have done at Great Oak Equine Assisted Programs in Aiken since last year.

Pioli said, “I would love to talk about different funding opportunities and what other states in the surrounding area is doing for their individuals and their residents.”

She shared with Evette the desire to offer medical services too, which would be provided by licensed therapists. It is a service she said people already bill for in Georgia.

“Hippotherapy is speech/language pathology, physical therapy and occupation therapy conducted on horseback.” Pioli said.

We spoke with Lt. Gov. Evette about the possibility of Great Oak getting money from the state for hippotherapy.

She replied, “I think that comes out of our legislators. We have wonderful people and I think that, in the meantime, I think that we just have to make sure that everyone knows about this. The governor thinks that it’s really important to share awareness.”

Getting the word out about Great Oak is exactly what helped one mother bring her son with autism about a month ago.

“I do know that this is one of his favorite parts of the week,” Kristin Beard said. “All you have to do is say it’s time to go ride horses and he puts his shoes on and he’s headed out to the car.”

Lt. Evette added, “It’s so wonderful when people come together, when communities come together and come up with wonderful therapy ideas like this for young people and older people and people who have been impacted by physical injuries and PTSD, autism. What equine therapy does kind of reaches the gamut.”

Even though the Lt. Governor said that funding Great Oak is completely up to lawmakers, she said that there are plenty of philanthropic people in the Aiken area who could help.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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