The Therapeutic Riding Program in Northern Virginia makes a difference.
Ten-year-old You will never meet a happier child than Alyssa Peterson.
Traci, her mother, said she hops and bounces all day. She enjoys reading and mathematics. She could easily spend the entire day creating and animating her own comic comics. She enjoys drawing, building with Legos, and bouncing on a yoga ball while listening to music.
From the outside, she appears to be just like any other ten-year-old. On the inside, though, she struggles on a regular basis.
She is frustrated by being misunderstood, not being able to speak 'normally,' and not being able to express herself in a way that others can understand and accept, Traci explained.
Alyssa was born with a missing corpus callosum, the brain's largest single structure that connects the two hemispheres. As a result, she was unable to physically cross her body's midline with her arms.
The Peterson family discovered the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program (NVTRP) in Clifton after numerous efforts at standard physical treatment.
Alyssa began adding horses into her physical therapy sessions (previously known as hippotherapy), and the results were astounding.
From the beginning, we realized the physical benefits of riding, Traci explained. Alyssa had perfectly even muscle tone on both sides of her body within a year of hippotherapy, she could effortlessly cross midline, and she was so balanced that standing on a horse while walking posed no problem.
But it's the peace that Alyssa has discovered at the farm that her mother is most proud of.
While the physical improvements and advantages are tremendous, what it does for her mind, body, and spirit is even more incredible. Alyssa's happy spot is NVTRP. She develops a trusting bond with the horses, and all of her autism tics go, Traci explained. Her worry begins to fade. She feels a sense of serenity wash over her, allowing her to study and appreciate her surroundings. This is the only therapy she participates in that makes her feel like a child. Therapies, doctor's appointments, and surgeries have robbed her of her youth. But she finds happiness at NVTRP.
The Petersons have discovered other benefits from equine-assisted services, such as the capacity to apply what they learn at the farm into Alyssa's daily life.
She can see and feel the difference that riding has made, Traci added, which has given her a confidence that she hasn't found anywhere else.She may now use that self-assurance to take on new challenges, conquer barriers, and trust in herself. She feels she can accomplish anything if she can stand atop a horse.
NVTRP was founded in 1980 to provide equine-assisted services to people with impairments, at-risk kids, recovering military members, and those in need by assisting them in recognizing their own untapped potential.
Clients enhance their fitness and mobility by improving core strength, muscle control, and balance through various programs. Working closely with horses, which are highly intuitive prey animals, motivates them to develop self-esteem and socializing, as well as providing a sense of community and belonging to both clients and their families.
Alyssa understands that no one at NVTRP cares what her diagnosis is. They are interested in who she is. They don't recognize autism or ADHD, Traci explained. Every time she rides, they witness a kid who doctors said would never walk or talk having the time of her life, giving it her all, and learning more about who she is as a person. It's the only location where she's treated as a person rather than a diagnosis. Horseback riding and the NVTRP are her home.