featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


photo by Gabuchitasilva 
Melissa Keir has always wanted to be an author when she wasn’t hoping for a career as a race car driver. Along with being an author, Melissa is a wife and mother, an elementary school teacher, a movie reviewer, and the owner of a publishing company. Her home blends two families and is a lot like the Brady Bunch, without Alice. Learn more about Melissa at her website and blog.

Equine Therapy and Children

Equine Therapy is a growing field as more studies are conducted on the benefits of using animals to reach autistic children. While typical treatment programs for autism and Asperger’s focus on behavior modification or medication, equine therapy has shown the best results. The rhythmic motion of riding a horse forces the children to focus on the movement, which helps the child learn to focus better. In addition, tactile senses are stimulated. The horse’s skin is soft and fuzzy. The playful nature of the animals naturally engages the children. They learn to interact socially with not just the animals but also with the counselors and staff people. These sensations and discoveries draw out the children who appear trapped inside their heads. Verbal communication improves.

Having worked with autistic and Asperger’s students as a teacher, I’m familiar with some of the methods we use in the classroom to help them focus, such as “brushing” and weight vests. Children are unique with their symptoms as well as their responses to stimuli. Many of my students used “stimming” or “flapping” to help cope with stressors. Yet there are documented cases of children who have selective mutism. These children often will only speak to certain people or at certain times. I took my understanding of Equine Therapy and trauma to create my characters in The Heartsong Cowboy.

Jake Kyncade uses equine therapy with disabled children, but when he’s faced with a child who was the victim of trauma, he doesn’t know if the therapy will work. I believe that we are just beginning to see the benefits of animals in our lives. I know that dogs and cats are often brought in to interact with nursing home patients and provide help in schools and hospitals. Why can’t a horse help bring a traumatized girl out of her shell?

The Heartsong Cowboy
Part of the Cowboy Up book bundle, a boxed set of seven romantic novellas by seven award-winning authors.

Can two people, one horse and the power of love cure a little girl?

Angela French blames herself for her daughter’s lack of voice. Determined to do anything to correct the situation, she seeks out Jake Kyncade, the owner of The Heartsong Ranch.

Jake Kyncade hides his own sorrows behind his no-nonsense demeanor. Helping children becomes one way to correct his past. Using equine therapy, he sets out to make a difference.

Can Jake help Angela’s dreams come true or will Jake’s past bring more heartache? Will love save them all?


Melissa Keir said...

Thank you for having me over. Equine Therapy is a relatively new program but so many people benefit from animals that it just makes sense!

Jennifer Lowery said...

What a great program! Thanks for sharing, Melissa!

Loralee said...

Great post, Melissa! Having done the research for my first book, Accidental Hero, at the equine therapy program near me, I totally agree in the benefits of this type of program. Therapeutic Horsemanship of West Michigan (THWM) has made a big difference for so many participants.

Judy Baker said...

What an interesting post Melissa. It's great to hear such programs are moving forward to help and I loved the way you used the equine therapy in your book.

D'Ann said...

Nothing better than a horse for the inside of any child...or adult.

Daryl Devore said...

Great post. Fabulous group of authors.

Melissa Keir said...

Thank you everyone for stopping by! Loralee, it's wonderful to see these programs at work. I've seen the dogs with schools and nursing homes, so horses are just another way of connecting with children and adults.

Angela Adams said...

Animals are the best medicine!