During this time of the year, many people often start making their New Year's resolutions but rarely do we talk about how far some folks have come in 365 days.
At R.E.A.C.H. Therapeutic Riding Center, change takes time, but what happens there is nothing short of a miracle.
R.E.A.C.H's seven horses are trained to help more than 60 physically and mentally disabled riders gain independence and self-confidence.
"He loves it, he loves getting on the horse. When we talk about coming to ride the horse he gets all giggly and smiley," said Amy Rachuig, Hagan's mom.
Seven-year-old Hagan has developmental delays after being born with a rare disorder that affects his brain.
"Delayed in speech, cognitive delays, didn't walk until he was almost three," said Rachuig. "He's pretty much been in therapy since he was a few months old."
Riding lessons help to improve Hagan's balance and encourage him to use more words.
"Some kids who I can't get to do things at the clinic, it's very easy to get them to do things here," said Stephanie Aldridge, an occupational therapist at R.E.A.C.H. "One because they're in a controlled setting on a horse and two because it's motivating. They love the horse and they love being here so they're in a better mood."
Along with the fun ride, Aldridge uses a variety of activities during each lesson to improve fine motor and sensory skills. She also changes the activities to meet each rider's different needs.
"He's enjoying it himself and that makes me happy," said Alma Gonzalez, Fabian's mom.
Ten-year-old Fabian also has a disorder that affects his brain. He's nonverbal and going blind. The horses improve his ability to walk and communicate, all while lifting his spirits.
"The movement of a horse at a walk mimics a human pelvis at a walk. So kids that have never walked before can sit on a horse and their pelvis feels like it's walking."
"When he's really having a bad day, I notice that when we leave from here he actually gets really happy and it helps him start his day off good," said Gonzalez.
In just 30 minutes, each rider's day is made, but it's their dedication to the journey that will have a lifelong impact.
"As long as we're able, I would love for him to keep riding," said Rachuig.
R.E.A.C.H. also caters to veterans, people with autism and children who have been bullied. For more information on its programs, click here.
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