Equestrian center aids cancer victims Featured

Equestrian center aids cancer victims

Arabian horse `Shalom’ is key component of rehabilitation efforts at Dream Rider site

Monday, December 20, 2010 at 1:09 p.m.

ALPINE — Translated from Hebrew to English, the word shalom means many things, including hello and goodbye. It also means peace and completeness.

It wasn’t by chance that “Shalom” was the name given to a white Arabian horse at Dream Rider Equestrian Therapy, a rehabilitation center in Alpine that uses horses and music to help breast cancer survivors.

The center, which was founded last summer, provides exercises designed to each cancer survivor’s rehabilitation needs. It starts with a survivor resting prone on Shalom’s back while the two align breathing patterns. More exercises are slowly and methodically introduced, with the intention of improving blood circulation and breathing.

Shalom was rescued at a Northern California horse auction by a nonprofit before Dream Rider founder Catherine Hand brought him to Alpine and gave him his new name.

Hand believes strongly in the peace and healing power Shalom provides to patients who survived the harsh physical toll of chemotherapy and radiation, plus the less visible psychological and emotional scars, including loss of self esteem.

“There’s so much turmoil we go through in our identity that you cannot express,” said Hand, a former opera set designer, painter and university lecturer who in 2007 was diagnosed with final stage breast cancer and given less than a month to live.

She was in a wheelchair and on oxygen support when she had a chance connection with a horse. By using hippotherapy, the art of horse movement helping humans, her life, Hand said, was saved.

“When you sit backward on horse, you’re sitting next to the horse’s lungs and heart, and that goes through your spine, your life center,” Hand said. “You can feel when the horse breathes in and out. It’s very deep. I was able to retrain myself to breathe without the oxygen... I was able to push myself to sit up. My diaphragm, which had become compressed, dropped and air rushed right into my lungs. It let the air out and released the toxins from chemo. It was such a dramatic experience.”

Information about the center can be found at dreamriderequestriantherapy.com or (619) 445-2576.

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; (619) 293-1829; Twitter @karenpearlman

Catherine Hand, survivor and NARHA Advanced Instructor has dedicated Dream Rider Equestrian Therapy to helping other breast cancer patients survive and thrive.

543 Anderson Road, Alpine, CA  91901  |  619-445-2576  |  info@dreamriderequestriantherapy.com
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