Founded in 1982, Equine-Assisted Therapies of South Florida (EATSF) provides therapeutic riding and equine activities for children and adults with special needs so that they may improve physically, mentally, and emotionally. As a recipient of equine-assisted services throughout her childhood, Molly Murphy, executive director, knows the impact the therapy can have on one’s quality of life. “I believe horses instill a significant amount of confidence because they rely on you to be a leader, said Molly. “The horses allow us to believe in ourselves.”
“At the barn, we often say, ‘witness the magic,’ added Molly. “I have seen many magical things happen because of horses – both as a participant and as a team member.”
Horseback riding gently and rhythmically moves the rider’s body in a motion similar to the human gait. During an average lesson, a rider can experience more therapeutic movement than any rehabilitative machinery can replicate. The lessons are adapted to meet the needs of individuals with special needs to enhance cognitive, perceptual, and motor skills. Objectives include improved circulation, balance, coordination, strength, tone, postural reactions, agility, self-confidence, social adjustment, mental and physical relaxation.
EATSF relies heavily on volunteers to help with classes, assist with events, and take care of the horses. While the horses tend to draw the volunteers in, the participants are why many volunteers commit to life-long roles. “The impact of our volunteers is substantial – both on our organization and the lives of our participants,” said Molly. “These relationships made such a tremendous impact on me when I was a participant, so I know how important and irreplaceable these friendships are.”
Under Molly’s leadership, EATSF developed Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy programs for girls at risk, those who have experienced trauma, and veterans, introducing participants to horse behavior and how horses can mirror our own emotions and help with the healing process.
In recognition of her success and dedication, Molly was awarded a 2021 Nation of Neighbors℠ award and empowerment grant. The organization plans to use the grant funds to add staff and horses to their growing team. EATSF also intends to provide scholarships for its participants. “This program did so much for me throughout my life, and I want to make sure it continues to do that for others,” shared Molly.