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ABOVE: Rebecca Johnston with her daughter Nina at the Horses Helping People, a nonprofit that offers occupational therapy and horseback-riding lessons to those with special needs. LEFT: Cathi Brown and Debi Most (leading the horse) assist rider Annie McCain.

on core muscles and balance, her mother explained. “They do work on fine motor skills. While riding a horse, they

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will stop and have Nina — still on horseback — work on big wooden puzzles, tic-tac-toe games, Rebecca said. “They’re very creative and also have her doing bubbles up there, while addressing her balance and core strength at the same time.” Another beneficiary of HOPE is 10-year-old Dale Grinder, whose mother Lelia said in a telephone interview, “He has been attending HOPE once a week for the past four years. He has a developmental issue — Duchenne, a form of muscular dystrophy. There are [numerous] types of muscular dystrophy. Duchenne, one of the deadliest, affects the heart and lungs. “Horseback riding helps his attention span and physically

helps him straighten out to prevent loss of muscle fiber. An occupational therapist works with him. He has stretching exercises every morning and night with me and my husband Rick.” The prognosis for those with Duchenne is grim; they typically die in their teens or early twenties. But Lelia remains hopeful. “Nowadays,” she added, “with the treatment and knowledge of keeping them as healthy as possible, Duchenne men are growing into their thirties. Whereas they are still wheelchair bound, they are leading productive lives.” Lelia said that Dale is still very functional for his age. “HOPE has given him a place to

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