Therapeutic riding center to open in Rock Springs

Sarah Dorsey, to the right of the boy on the horse, is preparing to open a therapeutic horse riding center in Rock Springs this year. Dorsey, pictured with her mentors Toni McQuaig (left) and Mareelyn McQuaig (far right), recalled how horseback riding therapy helped Cooper (on horse), a young boy with a brain tumor. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Dorsey)

ROCK SPRINGS — Did you know horses can help people heal?

Sarah Dorsey is hoping to share this truth with Sweetwater County in the new year.

Sarah is a therapeutic horseback riding instructor certified by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH). She can teach anyone, but she focuses on teaching therapeutic

riding to individuals with disabilities — whether mental, physical, social, or otherwise — as well as veterans. She is opening Windy Mountain Farms, a nonprofit therapeutic riding center in North Rock

Springs that will begin operations in 2020.

According to Sarah, the benefits of therapeutic riding have been recognized for over 3,000 years, and involvement with equine-assisted activities has been identified as making a positive impact on physical

and mental health as well as quality of life. Many individuals with a wide range of disabilities — including cerebral palsy, accidental injury, cognitive disabilities, mental illness, autism, and developmental and emotional disorders — have responded positively to equine-facilitated activities.

Horseback riding has specific physical and emotional benefits, such as strengthening core muscles, improving motor function skills, helping balance, and even assisting in increasing focus in individuals diagnosed with autism. Equine therapy has also been proven to help veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder by focusing on relaxation techniques and bonding with the horse.

In 2018, Sarah was working as an instructor in training, and she particularly remembers one student who made an impact on her. Cooper is a young boy who was diagnosed with a brain tumor from birth, which

resulted in left-side paralysis at age 5. During Sarah’s time working with Cooper, she saw how equine therapy helped his movement abilities, particularly by strengthening his core and improving function in his left hand just by the motion of the horse’s stride and holding the reins.

Sarah especially recalls how you could see the pure joy in Cooper’s face each time he rode, groomed the horse, or participated in other activities during therapy.

Sarah’s experience includes both working with horses for over 15 years and working in the health care field since she was 18. She has spent time specifically helping individuals with disabilities, whether children and their parents or adults and their families. She worked as a caretaker, then went on to graduate with a certified nursing assistant certification and an associate degree in applied science with medical assisting and phlebotomy. She is now pursuing her veterinary tech degree. Sarah said she never tires of using every opportunity to help people forget about their challenges or differences.

Sarah and her family will be opening Windy Mountain Farms, a PATH International Member Center, in Rock Springs in the new year. As a nonprofit program, this organization will provide equine therapy to individuals with disabilities, such as mental, physical, social, cognitive, or psychosocial.

Windy Mountain Farms will collaborate with One Stride Closer, a Sweetwater County Board of Cooperative Educational Services therapeutic riding program run by Cindy Brandjord. Cindy is retiring and handing over her business to Sarah, who hopes to continue the work of One Stride Closer, partnering with BOCES while also adding new sponsors and programs throughout Sweetwater County. Windy Mountain Farms hope to provide children and adults with developmental and disability-adaptable

experiences as beneficial to the individual as possible.

Starting out, Windy Mountain Farms will be a seasonal program offered in the spring and summer months. However, the center is seeking grant money to become operational year-round by building an indoor arena. In the meantime, Windy Mountain Farms plans to open its doors in the spring of

2020, accepting both volunteers and riding students from 4 years old and up.

Having seen the benefits of therapeutic riding first hand, Sarah hopes to use her experience to share those benefits with individuals throughout Sweetwater County. She believes equine activities have proven

to help children and adults by achieving and instilling a sense of independence, and she hopes to make these fulfilling experiences a reality in the community. Sarah loves using her time connecting the equine world and the medical world, bringing humans and horses together to heal each other mentally and physically.