Horse therapy becomes a popular treatment as mental health increases | Mid Missouri News

RUSSELLVILLE – Mid-Missouri residents who are dealing with mental health issues could find help in a trusted steed.

Hippotherapy and equine-assisted therapy are treatments that both use horses as a remedy for patients. The key difference is that hippotherapy focuses on physical health and equine-assisted therapy focuses on mental health.

“It’s a great way to just leave everything else out of your mind, come out and basically commune with nature and the animal, becoming a team with it,” B and B Farm, LLC Owner, Schellie Blochberger, said. “Once you’re focused on learning how to ride or taking a lesson, you really have to pay attention to that. You can’t be thinking about something else.”

Blochberger has been working with horses for over 22 years and she is a CHA certified riding instructor and professional horseman, while also judging and scribing horses.

However, B and B Farm, LLC, is not a licensed therapeutic riding center, but it has seen a boost in customers with the rise of mental health awareness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to data from Mental Health America, about 23% of Missouri adults have some form of mental illness, causing parents to focus more on the kids’ mental well-being.

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“The last two years, our program has held and really been busier than ever,” Blochberger said. “It gave kids an opportunity to get out and do something, and not be cooped up in the house as they were separated from their friends.”

Today was the start of the farm’s second summer riding camp for children ages 8 and up, allowing kids to enjoy the outdoors with physical and mental exercise.

Hazel Myles, a volunteer for the camp, has had experience with hippotherapy as she was diagnosed with oculocutaneous albinism and nystagmus at a young age, making her legally blind.

But she has also seen the use of equine-assist therapy and how it can benefit those with a mental illness, especially if they suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“I’ve had some personal experience with family members who have unfortunately experiences that condition,” Myles said. “I think a lot of them look to horses as refuge and an activity that’s just calming, relaxing, and very therapeutic emotionally.”

B and B Farm, LLC does offer scheduled riding lessons and will have its third summer riding camp on July 11-13.

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