Therapeutic riding program delivers on smiles and skills

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) —  A local non-profit is offering therapeutic riding using horses.  People with disabilities or those who need special attention can often benefit from this unique type of riding.

Coastal Therapeutic Riding Program has been around since 1999.

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Benefits include physical skills, cognitive functioning, emotional well-being, social skills and an overall understanding of horses.

Executive Director Kim Niggel has been around horses all her life. The love for them and the passion for helping other led her to where she is now.

“The thing that is funny is that a lot of time the parent, or care taker, or even a teacher will tell us ‘Oh that child is not going to ride. They are afraid of everything, dogs, cats, they are not going to ride’. And then they walk right up the ramp and climb right on the pony like it’s nothing so it’s just amazing to see,” Niggel said.



Cat Villarreal has been taking her daughter Alexa to Russell’s Reach for more than five years. She says she has seen so much improvement since then.

“To see her smile, she has a smile every time she comes out here and she gets on the horse so it’s just very amazing and very heartwarming,” Villarreal said.

The program uses nine horses to serve nearly 50 riders a week. The horses must go through extensive training for taking on special riders.

While Niggel says the upkeep of the horses and a 23-arce farm can be stressful, she knows every second is worth it.

“Sometimes it feels a little bit difficult but you see that smile start on that kid’s face,” Niggel said. “You’re good to go.”

Lessons are offered Monday through Saturday.