A stable environment: Horses offer Oklahomans therapy

BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Modified: December 31, 2008 at 9:18 am •  Published: December 31, 2008
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photo - Jimmy, 4, of Shawnee rides Patch the horse at State Fair Park during a special exhibition at the Oklahoma Holiday Classic, a horse show organized by the Oklahoma Paint Horse Club. Jimmy and his two brothers were among nine riders who participated in horse therapy exhibition. Photo BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN
Jimmy, 4, of Shawnee rides Patch the horse at State Fair Park during a special exhibition at the Oklahoma Holiday Classic, a horse show organized by the Oklahoma Paint Horse Club. Jimmy and his two brothers were among nine riders who participated in horse therapy exhibition. Photo BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN
Doctors didn’t expect Courtney Johnson to live past age 2. The 13-year-old was not expected to ever walk or talk because of a brain injury she suffered as a toddler.

But she does walk and talk, and a lot more. Tuesday afternoon, Courtney rode a horse during an exhibition at the fourth annual Oklahoma Holiday Classic, an Oklahoma Paint Horse Club show. She was one of nine children and adults showing the benefits of therapeutic horse riding.

For the past three years, fundraisers at the show have benefited therapeutic riding programs and clients like Courtney, said Kevin Hardcastle, the club’s president.

Nearly $7,000 was raised in a live auction Tuesday, and profits from a silent auction would raise more, Hardcastle said. Show attendees raised $13,000 last year and $8,000 the year before.

Donations from the Oklahoma City show have spurred a national therapy program with the American Paint Horse Association, Hardcastle said. The effort began when Hardcastle saw a therapeutic riding class during a pinto horse show in Tulsa.

"It tugged at my heartstrings,” Hardcastle said. "I just knew that was what I had to do.”

Reaping the benefits
Horse therapy programs help clients with physical, mental and emotional problems to develop their muscles and build confidence, Hardcastle said.

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OKLAHOMA HOLIDAY CLASSIC
What: Fourth annual Oklahoma Holiday Classic paint horse show featuring more than 300 horses.

When: Events begin at 7 a.m. daily through Saturday. Competition should end about 7 p.m. tonight, and about 10 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Where: State Fair Park, 333 Gordon Cooper Blvd.

Cost: Free.

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