Horses bring hope through equine therapy at Freedom Hooves

Karen Flateau takes Phaedra for a ride during a therapy session at Freedom Hooves. (Photo courtesy KSN News)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Karen Flateau and Phaedra have an inseparable bond. A bond Flateau feared was broken when a rare disease took her life in a different direction five years ago.

“When I became a paraplegic I was kinda crushed,” said Flateau. “I had no idea if I would ever ride again. Everyone wanted me to sell my horse and I said noooo, I am not doing that.”

While Flateau was coming to terms with her new life, now confined to a wheelchair, the organization Freedom Hooves helped her find new hope. That hope came from a 1,900 pound Draft horse, Phaedra.

“The horse mimics the movement of walking. Just like us, just like our gate, the human gate. Horses have that similar gate,” explained Misty Eldringhoff.

Eldringhoff is the development director of Freedom Hooves Therapeutic Riding Center. Freedom Hooves is an organization that helps children and adults with disabilities through equine-assisted therapies.

“So if you are having challenges, especially with your upper torsos down, if you’re having challenges and you can’t walk and you are wheelchair bound, once you get up on a horse and you start riding, the horse is walking, just like you would be walking out of that wheelchair,” said Eldringhoff.

Phaedra gives Flateau a chance to get back in the saddle. It’s not always an easy ride for this horse lover or those who benefit from Freedom Hooves.

“People who are disables, especially at my age deal with an awful lot of depression and sadness and isolation,” explained Flateau.

But equine therapy changes that, one ride at a time.

“It’s just the weight of the world is released. So it’s more than just gaining that muscle and that balance and core strength, it’s inside,” said Eldringhoff. “It’s personal, it’s that connection it’s that complete, it’s the experience. There’s that peace with horses.”

KSN is a proud sponsor of the Horseshoe Hoedown this Saturday benefiting Freedom Hooves Therapeutic Riding Center. The Horseshoe Hoedown will be at the WSU Rhatigan Student Center from 6:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased for $50 a piece.

For more information about Freedom Hooves, click here.

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