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Annemieke and River discover the healing power of horses

Annemieke and River petting pony Robby.

This is an amazing story about a special bond between a carer and a child, and how they discover the healing power of horses. Annemieke, who is a carer for River, a six-year-old boy who has quadriplegia due to a spinal cord injury, introduces him to horse riding and Hippotherapy at HorsePower Hills. Annemieke and River shared their journey with HorsePower Hills and the significant improvements it has made to River’s everyday life. We appreciate Annemieke and River for sharing their inspiring journey with us.

“My client, a six-year-old boy called River, was born with a spinal cord injury that has left him a Quadriplegic. I have had the privilege of caring for him since he was 3 years old. River is full of life, and as most 6 year olds, has a strong desire to become more independent and try new things. His disability makes simple tasks like transferring from wheelchair to bed, or floor to couch more difficult for him, and I could see that he was going to need to build more upper body strength and learn specific techniques for him to achieve his goals.

Being an avid horse lover and rider myself, I suggested to him (and his Mum) that learning to ride horses might be something he could do to build core strength and have fun at the same time. I found HorsePower Hills through an internet search and made an enquiry. I received a warm and friendly response from the secretary Lynn, and I was given all the information I needed via email, and was directed to the Occupational Therapist (OT), Jane. A prompt appointment was made for River to have an OT assessment done.

River was nervous about this meeting and somewhat apprehensive about the thought of riding a horse, but Jane’s warm and friendly demeanor helped River feel at ease very quickly. Meeting Jane’s horses also gave River a buzz and he started to get excited about the idea of learning to ride! We were delighted to hear that he passed the assessment and qualified to start in the Hippotherapy program.

River has been doing the Hippotherapy program once a week for the last 6 months now, and we are amazed at how quickly his core strength and balancing skills have improved!

River riding pony Robby.

Before the Hippotherapy program, an X-ray taken a year earlier showed that he had significant scoliosis and River complained of back pain often. After 4 months of the Hippotherapy sessions, another X-ray was taken, and his spine is almost completely normal! The doctor was very impressed with the change and asked what exercises he was doing. I was delighted to tell her that River was in the Hippotherapy program and riding ponies at HorsePower Hills.

River loves the ponies and the program. He looks forward to his weekly riding sessions and shows great improvement every week. Jane, Willie Warnock, the Head Coach, and all the staff and volunteers that help are very encouraging towards him which fuels his desire to do his best and impress them.

He no longer complains of back pain and he is able to transfer himself much more easily now, which saves my back! It’s a win - win for everyone! I cannot thank everyone at HorsePower Hills enough. I am so grateful for all you do and look forward to seeing how far River will go with his new love of horse riding!"

If you would like to inquire about our programs or you are seeking to volunteer with HorsePower Hills, please email

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