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How horse therapy helps sick children - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

How horse therapy helps sick children

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MAHWAH, N.J. -

Kaia Carroll says she hasn't had much fun in months.

"Awesome! So much fun," she said.

The 8-year-old has a rare form of leukemia. The last year of her life has been a blur of doctors, hospitals and chemotherapy.

This week, I felt good," she said. "I wasn't really nauseous and I wasn't in any pain really."

Kaia and 20 other young patients took part in Pony Power Therapy in New Jersey's Ramapo Mountains. Patients and their families learn to ride and care for horses. Hackensack University Medical Center sponsors the intensive four-day program.

"Lots of joy on the farm," said Dana Spett of Pony Power Therapies. "There's some exercise, we are getting dirty, so there's just endless opportunities between physical and emotional, recreational, social."

Despite their size and strength, horses tend to be very calm. Studies show children who spend time with them have lower levels of stress.

Pediatrician Dr. Stephen Percy says riding also helps build muscle and coordination.

"Particularly with kids who have developmental disabilities and may have issues with walking... to get them on the animals and to be moving in a different way has really helped them," Percy said.

Kaia has also regained something her parents longed to get back.

"This has brought so much happiness to her," mom Darlene said. "She's looked forward to this for so long. It's just really nice to know these opportunities are there for them to make them feel special."

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