There is a mysterious connection between humans and horses -- and the former can learn a lot from the latter.
On Sunday, Partners for Progress, a not-for-profit organization that provides equine therapy-based programs for individuals with disabilities, held its Annual Family Summerfest & Participant Horse Show Event in Wauconda.
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Besides food and games, the program participants showed off the horse riding skills they learned during the year for their family and friends. The events varied based on the participants' abilities, ranging from beginners who were judged on posture to those who demonstrated skills of getting the horse to perform certain actions.
Among those taking part in Sunday's event was Kelly Corbin, 12, of Hawthorn Woods, who has mild cerebral palsy. Her mother, Linda, heard about the program through a friend.
"Her brother and sister are involved in sports and activities and we were trying to find a good fit for Kelly, because she would get frustrated doing sports," Linda Corbin said.
In a fenced off area, the children could be seen on the horses, accompanied by someone leading the horse and another person walking alongside.
"They do exercises, to help their muscles," Linda Corbin said. "One time she came home, she said she did a hundred 'up-downs.'" She said they also combine other activities with horseback riding, such as shooting baskets.
Arlington Heights resident Chris Murray said her 4-year-old daughter, Emma, has some physical delays, also loves the program.
"It just seems like the kids have a great time with the horses," Murray said. "There are smiles on their faces all the time. That's really what it comes down to."
He added that his daughter doesn't even know she is doing physical therapy.
"She is riding a horse," he said.
Partners for Progress's therapeutic equestrian programs help kids with all ranges of abilities. They receive about 170 participants per week, some referred by an occupational or physical therapist, said the center's executive director, Diane Helgeland.
"Goals are written for them, and then they use the horse as part of their treatment," Helgeland said.
For example, when sitting on a horse, the horse mimics a normal gait and your pelvis moves as though you are walking.
The center also has show teams that participate in Special Olympics and national shows.