Riding Program Improves Vet’s Condition

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A couple weeks ago WOUB reported about the Ohio Horse Park in Scioto County and a riding program there that provides therapy to veterans.

Today, more about one of those veterans and how therapeutic riding is helping him recover from a brain hemorrhage and strokes.

“He enjoys it quite a lot,” says Nellie Scarberry, the wife of Mike Scarberry.

Mike Scarberry is 61 and has difficulty talking.

The Scarberrys live in Chesapeake and once a week they go to the Horse Park in Franklin Furnace for therapy sessions.

“He’s excited to go and it helps him.  He pets and talks to the horse. He just loves animals. He combs them and brushes them and makes sure they’re OK. He’s just happy, happy when he’s around the horse,” said Nellie Scarberry.

At the horse park, Mike Scarberry works with a recreation therapist.

Scarberry works through different mazes set up, stopping at certain points when he’s told to do so and guide the horse through a series of left and right turns.  

Nellie Scarberry says her husband is paralyzed on the right side and the turning exercises help strengthen it.

When someone with a disability gets on a horse, the therapy can help with a variety of issues, mental and physical.

Nellie Scarberry says it's definitely working for her husband.

“When you have strokes and stuff, I guess it goes really slow, but he is talking better, he can say a lot of words. When they tell him to go through the different numbers, he’ll repeat the numbers…and he sits up straighter and walks better. He just seems like a happier person,” said Scarberry.

If there was any doubt that Scarberry was getting better, it was dispelled one day when the Vietnam War vet surprised everyone by breaking into song.

“Nobody started him out or anything, he just started singing ‘oh give me a home’ and I was like, ‘oh my gosh’ and then he was singing that and so we were all really pleased and happy to hear that,” said Scarberry.  She works with her husband on singing, saying that musical therapy can help stroke victims, too.  Nellie Scarberry says she thinks maybe the rhythm of the horse prompted Mike to break into song.

Scarberry has been taking therapy at the Ohio Horse Park for about a year.

His wife says it's made a difference in his life.

“It has helped him tremendously. As far as the speech is coming back slow, he’s walking better and sitting up straighter and he’s got a smile on his face. I would tell them, yes, definitely, if someone has had a stroke or brain injuries, especially when someone is non-verbal, you know it’s frustrating for them not to be able to be in control of their life which they had before,” said Scarberry. “When they’re on the horse, they’re in control. They’re making the horse go right or left or walk or straight or stop.”

Scarberry says she has hope that as time progresses, so will her husband’s recovery, thanks to his equine therapy.