Holiday Heroes: Reins of Life helps residents get back in the saddle
LYDICK, Ind. - ABC57's Holiday Heroes has returned for the holiday season. Throughout December, ABC57 shines a light on the people and charities that go out of their way to help others across Michiana.
To start the season of giving, meteorologist Dave Caulfield stopped by Reins of Life, a nonprofit that combines therapy and horseback riding for the disabled.
Some say the world is best viewed through the ears of a horse.
At Reins of Life in Lydick, this is the view that transforms riders of all ages.
"Our mission is to improve quality of life for children and adults with disabilities through equine assisted therapies," said Dorota Janik, Executive Director of Reins of Life.
Janik has been holding the saddle down at Reins of Life for the past 10 years.
The nonprofit started back in the 1970s in St. Joseph County with therapy sessions held in whatever backyard was available that day.
Now, volunteers serve nearly 400 people per month at their Lydick and Michigan City locations.
"We have 12 different programs, and they are designed with the community needs in mind," Janik said.
While a big part of the therapy that Reins of Life provides is riding horses like Sully here, it's about a lot more than just saddling up.
"In the process, we incorporate occupational therapy, physical therapies, [and] speech therapy elements to work on a specific goal that each person has," said Janik.
Janik started at Reins of Life 15 years ago as a volunteer.
Just a few months in, a courageous little girl and a horse named Thunder changed her life forever.
"I was paired with a little girl who was nonverbal. If you are not verbal, you can blink, you can smile, you can tap a horse," said Janik. "Well she was tapping a horse for 7 weeks straight, and then week eight I took her off the horse, I gave her a little opening, I was waiting for that moment where she taps the horse to signal it to move on, and instead she said, 'Walk on, Thunder.' First words ever. A few years later, I met her again. She was speaking full sentences."
Janik says miracles like this happen every day at Reins of Life, all thanks not only to the hard work from their therapy team but also those cheering them on and walking with them.
"We have 400 volunteers every week helping us taking care of the horses, maintenance, helping with lessons," she said.
Lessons that are becoming more crowded by the day.
Janik playfully says Reins of Life is overbooked but blessed and the non-profit needs additional volunteers to help as many people as possible.
"Through learning horsemanship and riding, we teach how to live and lead a healthy life," she said.