Stable-Spirit’s horses stabilize those with special needs

Published 11:49 am Wednesday, January 31, 2018

By Anne Payne

The Orange Leader


Who knew horses possess an innate ability to reflect the emotions and characteristics of humans near them, resulting in horses becoming a positive learning tool?  The horses, according to Katie Durio, LMSW, Executive Director, Stable-Spirit, Rose City, remain effective as a physical therapeutic tool for those who are physically and intellectually impaired.

A 501c(3) nonprofit, Stable-Spirit in Rose City, Texas, inspires a mission to provide the community with various opportunities which motivate positive mental, physical, and emotional well-being through professionally guided interactions with horses.

Durio also notes every horse produces rhythmic, repetitive movements, in a 3-dimensional fashion, illustrating the close simulation of a human pelvis as each horse walks.

She added that the movement and the warmth from the horse’s body creates a therapeutic tool which adheres to the client’s own therapy plan, promoting lots of benefits for the client.  This is called Hippotherapy.  Hippo is the Greek word for horse.

The results of Hippotherapy can include improved coordination and vocalizations, better balance, more pronounced articulation and respiration, better posture and staying on task, improved circulation and sensory awareness, relaxation of muscles that are spastic, and weak muscle strengthening.

“Horses can get people to open-up about themselves, and this therapy teaches people who like horses how to do things,” Durio said.

Durio also said her job at Stable-Spirit is merely of a facilitator, leading to interesting insights into persons.

For example, teenagers often do not wish to converse with a therapist, but they usually will relate to a horse, according to Durio.

Meanwhile, children can experience 30 minutes per week on a horse, reaching their treatment goals faster. Depending upon what a child needs is how it is determined what horse the child gets, such as in the horse’s gait.  Horses are interactive with kids, as in a child brushing a horse fits in a sequencing order.

Durio adds, “Horses will be honest and generate body language.”

She recently held an all-day workshop of team building for a group in Beaumont, where she said the people learned a lot about themselves as a group, working with horses.

Durio not only teaches kids to ride, but she now is teaching veterans with PTSD to ride step-by-step.

Durio also mentions that autistic children may bond with certain horses, with the horses being as gentle as lambs with the special needs children.

Durio said she can trust her horses with those with disabilities, even those kids with anger issues.  Contracts with children are often used.

“Three days after being with horses, there are very rarely any melt-downs with an angry child, due to trying to regulate his or her own issues,” Durio stressed.

Durio is “living the dream,” even though she did not own her first horse until age 40.

She has lived in Rose City since 2010, and has a grown son and six grandchildren.  She has been involved with Stable-Spirit since 2006, first in Brazoria County, and later in Jefferson County.

Prior to that, she was a social worker, earning both BS and MS degrees in Sociology from Lamar University.