COLUMBIA — Five veterans spent Tuesday morning on horseback at Columbia's Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center for the physical benefits horseback riding provides.
Erin Carr, 35, is a recreational therapist at the Truman Memorial Veterans hospital. She sees physical benefits for veterans who spend most of their time sitting down.
"The movement of the horse and the heat from the horse's body just helps massage their muscles," Carr said. "And for someone who's in a wheelchair and doesn't walk, it kind of gives their legs a walking motion."
Connie Crumpton, 51, is a therapeutic riding instructor for Cedar Creek. As an occupational therapist, she has been looking forward to the new Tuesday horseback riding summer program for veterans.
"It kind of opens up stiff joints, massages stiff muscles, tight muscles (and) lengthens tissues," Crumpton said. "We started off with five clients for this summer session, and their ranges of abilities, disabilities are pretty broad-ranging. But we service just a wide variety of abilities here."
This Tuesday was the first day of the summer program that will last eight weeks. Steve Helling, a 59-year-old Vietnam veteran, said he plans to attend more of the morning rides.
"It's something to do — be outside, be out in the air, out in the country," Helling said. "It's better than being cooped up in a building all the time ... it was lots of fun."
Carr said that taking the veterans out of a hospital setting is an added bonus.
"Normally they're in a wheelchair, so this gets them up on a horse and (is) completely different from their day-to-day routine," Carr said. "I think they're going to be smiling and talking to everybody about it today. A lot of these guys are in their 70s and 80s, so that's a lot for someone in their 80s to get on a horse and ride around for 15 minutes."
A nurse, Cedar Creek workers and several volunteers were on the scene to assist the veterans as needed.