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Scottsdale farm using horse therapy to help kids with cerebral palsy

March is National Cerebral Palsy Month, and an Arizona equine therapy farm is helping children with the disability find their strength.

Joe Day has cerebral palsy, and some of the best therapy he has recieved has been on the back of a horse.

"You can tell a difference when he has been on a horse and when he hasn't been on a horse," said his mother, Dede. "Whether its drooling or his strength, the way he walks - he used to drag one foot. Its like medicine. It really is like cerebral palsy medicine."

Dede says Joe and his twin were born seven weeks early.

"They couldn't breathe right away, they had to have this shot to close their heart valve," said Dede. "His brother's [heart valve] took, and [Joe's] kind of reopened, and he lost some oxygen a couple of times."

The loss of oxygen, according to mom, resulted in cerebral palsy.

According to the CDC, people with CP have problems with movement, posture and other related conditions like intellectual disabilities, seizures, even problems with vision. One in 345 children in America have been diagnosed with it. 

"So he didn't walk for the longest time, then he was on a walker, then we got him on the horse at about 7 years old," Dede said. "The gait of the horse and the movement in his torso - because [Joe] used not be able to move his head up, it just strengthened him to the point where he was able to just start walking."

When the family moved to Arizona a few years ago, Joe started riding at Hunkapi Farms in Scottsdale.

"We primarily use the horse for like a tool in their motion, so it helps them like with their balance, helps them with their focus," said behavior health technician Cara Martin.

Martin works with kids ages 3 to 17. Sessions are anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours long. 

"We really encourage them to be independent and really encourage them to do things by themselves," Martin said.

Visit the Hunkapi Farms website: https://www.hunkapi.org/

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