Nez Perce Tribe awards Grant to Sonnen in New Equine Therapy Program

Kamiah Early Childhood Special Education teacher Michelle Sonnen has received a generous grant through the Local Education Program of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee to help students in the Kamiah schools make connections between animal and human relations in an equine therapy called Hippotherapy. This effective therapy directly connects to the Nez Perce people and their heritage and unique culture through horsemanship. Horses are the trademark of the Nez Perce since they first acquired runaway Spanish animals in the 1700s. As they bred the Appaloosa war horses, the People became the dominant inland Northwest tribe.

Hippotherapy is a form of physical, occupational, and speech therapy in which an equestrian therapist uses the characteristic movements of a horse to provide carefully graded motor and sensory input.  Hippotherapy has been used to treat patients with neurological or other disabilities, such as autism, cerebral palsy, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, head injury, stroke, spinal cord injury, behavioral disorders, and psychiatric disorders (Dr. Tuba Tulay KOCA).
Equine therapy is known to maintain and improve: balance, behavior, coordination, coping skills, core strength, eating, emotional reserves, emotional stability, endurance, eye contact, family interaction and relationships, fine motor skills, general motor skills, good moods, hand strength, independence, leg strength, pain coping and relief, physical function, posture, relaxation, resiliency, self-care, self-awareness, self-control, smiling, speech, talking, and walking. It also has made proven progress in family interactions and community socialization. Sonnen’s program goals will include students learning to care for others and develop empathy for living creatures.

Kamiah School District is proud to partner with the Nez Perce Tribe and Hearts That Heal to provide this program. Students will attend weekly therapy sessions at Hearts That Heal Riding School located on Highway 162. We expect to realize the same improved educational outcomes that will be evidenced in cognitive and behavioral patterns demonstrated in other environments.