ST. PETERSBURG, FL. -- Kyle Travers, 18, has been riding horses for the past seven years but for him, it's more than a hobby.
Travers is on the Autism spectrum and he rides horses as a form of therapy.
“It helps me maintain a better attitude in stressful situations and it helps me practice, it's a full body workout which is needed,” the 18-year-old Travers said.
It didn’t take long for his mother, Beth Travers, to notice a change, “his sensory issues were just so high, to be outside was incredibly stressful for him. But after only about a year of riding, I went down to the school and found out he was playing touch football by choice so that was a huge difference for him.”
Melissa Yarbrough has been Travers instructor since he started riding. In October of 2016, Yarbrough started Inspire Equine Therapy Program, a volunteer-run program at Creek Under the Son Stables, in Clearwater.
Travers says without Inspire, and equine therapy, he probably wouldn't be able to have a job, pursue passions and have such a large group of friends, "this place, these people, are the reason I'm able to function as a human being on a level that I might not be able to."
Inspire offers several therapy programs.
Therapeutic riding helps with muscle strength, coordination, communication skills and self-esteem.
Therapeutic driving, which has a lot of the same benefits as riding but the participant sits in a cart pulled by a horse.
Freedom Heroes and Equines Carriage Driving is a free program for disabled veterans and first responders.
Inspire even has an agricultural training program that teaches students how to maintain a barn and a garden.
“When a rider is up there for the first time and they can actually steer the horse for the first time by themselves, or stop the horse by themselves, that's a big accomplishment for them. If they can actually learn how to garden and grow their own vegetables, that's another accomplishment because then they could take those vegetables and learn to cook for themselves,” explains Yarbrough.
One half hour lesson costs a rider $30, which is just a fraction of the actual cost of $125. The difference is made up from grants, donations and fundraisers.
On Saturday, October 21, Inspire is hosting a Boot Scootin Barn Dance. Tickets are $50 and it includes a BBQ dinner, music, dancing and a silent auction.