Therapy horses bring holiday cheer to kids at New Jersey center

MEDFORD, NEW JERSEY -- All it took was a little greenery and some festive hats to transform therapy horses into Santa's helpers at the Compassionate Friends Therapeutic Horseback Riding Center in Medford, New Jersey.

"We usually stop our therapeutic riding the second week in December, but we wanted to see our children for the holidays," said President Sherri Briggs.

The big man in red made a stop at the center on Sunday, bringing holiday cheer to the folks who come to the farm for help with physical and mental disabilities.

"When they get involved with horses their whole personality changes. It gives them a confidence in dealing with all situations in life," said volunteer Nancy Roswell.

Eighteen-year-old Justin, who is nonverbal, who has come to the farm for years, greeted Iggy the horse with a big smile.

"They've done wonders with him. Just with his balance and discipline. It's just been an awesome thing. And he loves the horses. Loves them," said caregiver Kim Bancroft.

Eleven-year-old William Chernetz has a neuromuscular condition that effects the way he walks. His mother tells Action News weekly riding sessions are a huge part of his therapy.

"The way the horse moves, it replicates the way our body moves, our pelvis moves when we walk. So even riding just without doing exercises is beneficial for kids with any gait abnormalities," said Olga Chernetz of Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

As for William, he says it doesn't really feel like therapy at all.

"People do exercises, and they don't even realize they're doing exercises and they're having fun," said William.

Organizers said the best gift is seeing the students who have come so far throughout the year.

"It warms you to see people, you know, make progress," said Briggs.
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