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

/> Lisa Johnson sees that in Courtney and her other two children who participate in horse programs.

"It relaxes them,” she said. "They enjoy it.”

Most of the therapy riders, including the Johnson sisters, attend the program at Harvest Farms in Shawnee. It’s free for participants, director Jackie Wilks said. About 30 to 50 students ride each Monday. They also do crafts and learn about the Bible.

"It’s such a ministry for us,” said Wilks, who runs the program with her husband, who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

"We love the Lord and have been very, very blessed, and it’s an opportunity to turn around and give those blessings to other people.”

Wilks has as many volunteers as she does students. The Burkhead sisters from Shawnee — Rachel, Joanna, Abigail and Mary — help by leading craft time, assisting students or cleaning up. Even for volunteers, Rachel Burkhead said, the program is a ministry.

"We do it because we love God,” she said.



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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