GARRARD COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — After three years of learning therapeutic skills from Hooves of Hope Therapeutic Riding Center in Lancaster, a teenage student used his skills to fill one of the center's needs during the pandemic.
15-year-old Mason Cox said the emphasis on cleanliness during the pandemic caused two of his passions to collide.
"I'm obsessed with the older washers and dryers in particular," Cox said."And so naturally I, of course, really enjoy fixing them, and then I saw using my skills as a way to help someone that helped someone in an organization that has helped me so much and I just saw it as a way of giving back."
Cox said he found a washer and dryer at a pawn shop and with the help of his dad fixed it so the staff at Hooves of Hope no longer had to transport towels and saddle pads to their homes to wash them.
Cox attends Hooves of Hope to help him reduce stress, gain better coordination and because he loves horses. His instructor and Hooves of Hope Program Director Laura Friday said, "We serve adults and children that have cognitive and physical disabilities, as well as emotional behavior disorders, using horses as a therapy tool."
During the past three years, Cox, who has autism, said he has "been learning that the horses can kind of read your mind ... And so they can basically feel what you're feeling. And so because of that they can sense your emotions and they respond to them and it really does affect how they ride so if you're stressed they'll feel that and be more tense. So naturally, you'll want to be calm, even if you're kind of stressed out inside, and the horses will can kind of feel that and then they will respond."
Friday explained that, "individuals with autism, PTSD, anxiety, depression, they have to be really present with that horse they pick up on the horse's attitude of the horse reflects what they're feeling and thinking. And so, it makes the person have to regulate everything inside them to be fully present."
Cox's mother Jennifer agrees this therapy has helped him in crucial ways.
"To relate to people better, because when he's ridden different horses they communicate differently. And some of them have been harder for him and he's had to adapt the way that he communicates. Like they maybe need more than one signal to do a behavior," said Jennifer. "It's helped him learn, I think, that people are like that too, that they may need more signals and that you have to adapt how you communicate so that they're getting the message that you're trying to send."
Jennifer further explained how Hooves of Hope has been a respite for their family.
"So many people have sports or other activities that their kids enjoy doing and take part in...but you can come here and this is kind of like his sport. It's a place where he's comfortable, he looks forward to coming. And it's kind of a haven for the parents, too. You come and it's beautiful here, and for an hour, you know your kid is taken care of, they're happy they're learning and they're with people that care about them. And you can just sit and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. It's so you're kind of getting therapy too," she said. "And it was really nice to see his talents and grow a bit to see his talents be used to help people who have helped him so much."
To learn more about Hooves of Hope, visit their website.