Equine therapy: Therapeutic interactions with horses

This article written by Sonia Azad originally appeared in WFAA on May 15, 2018.

Mike Maas rode horses competitively once upon a time.

"Probably about 41 or 42 years since the last time I rode before I came here," Maas said, walking through the stables at Equest in Southern Dallas.

It's Parkinson's that got him back on the horse.

"I have tremors real bad," Maas said his hands quivering. "By the time I get to a tree line, my tremors are gone."

How is that immediate change possible?

"You employ a different part of your brain," said Metrocare CEO Dr. John Burress. "You detour around the part that's causing the tremor in the first place."

Maas' diagnosis came in 2015 following years of repeated concussions from playing rugby and an active military life in South Africa.

"I actually came in originally for PTSD," Maas said about his introduction to Equest.

Through the Adaptive Training Foundation and Equest, Maas took a nine week class that reshaped his life.

"All those interactions are therapeutic, and they relax you," Maas noted.

He found the interactions so helpful that Maas kept coming back to Equest after the class was over.

Dr. Burress explained that therapeutic riding activates pathways in the brain around the parts with Parkinson's Disease.

"We are seeing some remarkable results," said Equest CEO Lili Kellogg.

Maas isn't riding competitively like he was decades ago. These days, he's just fine with slow and steady thanks to the unexpected return of a childhood hobby.

CJ Bankhead