Who do horses help?

Gloria is 25 years old. Her body is unnaturally curved as she is one of our children with the most severe physical disabilities. Moving is difficult and sometimes painful for her. Sitting in a chair, going out or joining individual or group activities is impossible . Despite our best efforts, she spends most of her day in bed. There is always one of the other children who keeps her company, and at every possible moment, we look for ways to get her out of the room. Three times a week, a physiotherapist works with her to relieve her muscle cramps, work on her mobility and give her a massage.

Zlati also has a body condition which requires her to lie down all the time. Her physical age does not match the development of her body. Rehabilitation work with her is 4 times a week.

Petko, who is in a wheelchair, has to wear a safety helmet because of his self-aggressive behaviors. But a smile often appears on his face when our therapists work with him on verticalization and mobility.

Gloria, Zlati and Petko are among the 14 young people with the most severe and multiple disabilities in our centers who require specific rehabilitation work and regular therapy to alleviate their physical discomfort. In order to diversify our therapeutic portfolio our team came up with the idea of incorporating horses into our work with the most severe cases.

The year 2022 was the Year of the horse for the children and young people from our centers in Kazanlak. For more than 6 months now, Gloria, Zlatka, Petko and 11 other young people have been visiting an equestrian center run by Petya Karanikolova twice a week, where they meet the therapeutic horse Hippo. Petya is the founder of an association for equine assisted therapies whom we contacted after researching the possibilities of specialized therapy near our centers in Kazanlak. She responded to our enquiry and drew up individual therapeutic plans for the children and youths.

Therapeutic work with horses is a proven method for improving the physical and mental condition of children with cerebral palsy, as well as cognitive and behavioral problems. Regular walks outdoors and physical contact with the horse alleviates severe conditions of muscle spasticity. Interacting with the horse helps improve social skills, calms tempers and tensions, and brings many positive emotions to our youths.

Equestrian therapy for all physically disabled children and young people in our centers in Kazanlak was made possible thanks to partners – the Bulgarian-Swiss Chamber in 2021 and Roche Bulgaria. These donations secured the therapy sessions in 2022. Our traditional, seventeenth Charity Ball, held in the autumn of 2022, was well attended by donors wishing to support our equine therapy programme in 2023.

Gloria’s face lights up with a big smile when she interacts with the horse. Her muscles, which are tight and constricted, visibly relax. Gloria can now spread her fingers, something she couldn’t do before. Petko is much calmer, there is no tension, and the self-aggressive episodes have significantly decreased. Fanny, who before equine therapy could not sit, now sits on Hippo and rides with support.

Petya, Cedar’s team in Kazanlak and everyone involved are extremely happy with the development we are seeing in the children and will continue to work to provide specialists and various therapies to alleviate their conditions and bring them joy.


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