We offer many different opportunities for wounded warriors, special needs individuals, their families, and the organizations that support them. From therapeutic riding to direct animal interaction and joyful wagon rides, there are many ways to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of the beautiful and happy service animals of Whisper Hill. We provide all these services free of charge to wounded warriors and the special needs community in Wisconsin, and we support this work with donations , volunteers, and by selling our services for private and corporate events.
What is Animal-Assisted Therapy?
Animal-assisted therapy is a type of therapy that involves animals as a form of treatment. Interaction with animals can help improve social, emotional, and cognitive functioning. Animals used in therapy can include domesticated pets like cats and dogs, farm animals, and even marine animals — such as dolphins! At Whisper Hill, we have a barnyard full of farm animals that have been specially socialized to be calm, comforting, and open to human interaction.
Some of the benefits of animal-assisted therapy include:
- Improved fine motor skills
- Improved balance
- Increased focus and attention
- Increased self-esteem and ability to care for oneself
- Reduced anxiety, grief, and isolation
- Reduced blood pressure, depression, and risk of heart attack or stroke
- Improved willingness to be involved in a therapeutic program or group activity
- Increased trust, empathy, and teamwork
- Greater self-control
- Enhanced problem-solving skills
- Improved social skills
These are just some of the conditions that animal-assisted therapy can help treat:
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Heart disease
- Developmental disorders
- Psychiatric disorders
- Emotional and behavioral disorders
- Chronic pain
Animal-Assisted Therapy Opportunities with Whisper Hill
Simply stroking, touching, and caring for animals has a calming effect, can help satisfy emotional needs and introduces a sense of wonder. When we bring the sheep, miniature donkeys, goats, miniature horses, and other service animals of Whisper Hill to visit, good feelings, new experiences, and happiness are in abundance.
The staff and volunteers of Whisper Hill bring the animals, set up the enclosure, and help nurture interaction between the animals and humans. These experiences are remarkably rewarding for everyone involved. We never get tired of watching the joy and interest on the faces of our petting zoo participants.
Pony Rides and Therapeutic Riding
Therapeutic pony rides give special needs and at-risk children and adults a unique opportunity to interact with, ride on, and care for horses. We bring our ponies to you, set up the riding ring, and assist with providing a safe, nurturing experience that participants will talk about long after the rides are over.
In addition to pony rides, we also offer a therapeutic riding programs with our horses. Therapeutic riding provides healthy exercise to individuals with special needs by allowing them to participate in the sport of horseback riding in a success-oriented environment.
All these measurable therapeutic benefits come without the rider even being aware of being in therapy! The benefits are not only physical in nature or reserved for individuals with physical disabilities. There are emotional and psychological benefits as well. Horses are non-judgmental; they do not laugh when told secrets. They provide a strong shoulder to lean on and they do not shun people who are a little different.
- Improves balance and coordination
- Provides passive stretch for tight muscles
- Replicates a muscle movement pattern like that of walking
- Improves posture
- Strengthens muscles by encouraging muscular response
- Increases awareness of one’s body in space (proprioception)
- Stimulates the vestibular, nervous and circulatory systems
- Improves range of motion
Skills for Success
The skills learned in riding class can be applied elsewhere in the lives of students. Each time the student has a success in riding, such as learning that there is a way, though it may not always be easy, he or she learns to deal with other problems.
Therapeutic Riding may also benefit those having difficulty with school lessons, as school material such as learning colors and numbers and right/left discrimination is often incorporated into the riding lesson. But, learning on horseback is fun. Most of the time, the students do not even realize that they are learning much more than just how to ride! What they learn in their riding class is often carried back into the classroom without the students ever realizing it.
- Reinforces standards of behavior
- Teaches trust through the rider/horse bond
- Teaches problem solving skills
- Increases self-confidence and self-discipline
- Teaches the use of patience to control the horse
- Enhances decision making skills
- Promotes responsibility and cooperation
- Increases the ability to focus and stay on task
- Provides an increase in self-esteem and pride
- Instills a sense of accomplishment
While the benefits of Therapeutic Riding have been medically documented, statistics alone cannot fully describe the true value of this service. The look of confidence, pride and achievement on a rider’s face when he or she has successfully completed a task is the most profound measure of its value. To put it simply, Therapeutic Riding works and the benefits are ongoing.
Sometimes the best therapy is to get out and have a little fun. Whisper Hill’s wagon was custom built to accommodate wheel chairs and those with difficulty walking, and its open sides and covered top protect those sensitive to sun exposure while giving them a healthy outdoor experience. Our wagon is pulled by our magnificent Clydesdales (usually John and Cletus), who provide a gentle ride accompanied by the calming clop clop clop of their hooves and the jingling of their tackle.