Movement and horses have a way of nudging individuals to take an action they wouldn’t necessarily want to do.
The Bell County Judge and Commissioners’ Committee on People with Disabilities had two presentations at its monthly meeting.
Sherry Ayres, a teacher with the Bell County Coop, has completed her 25th year in teaching special education.
Ayers is partnering with Joshua Crixell, a fitness trainer, to develop a program that will entice a group of people who wouldn’t normally join in a physical activity when given a choice.
Although they both live in the Temple area, the two met at an autism fitness training event in Houston.
Ayers realized that many of her students, adults and children, had poor eating habits and lacked regular exercise.
Crixell, a trainer by trade and bicycle enthusiast, has two sons on the autism spectrum and noticed they were often excluded from participating in sporting events and other forms of group activities.
Ayers was looking for a way to reach out to these individuals in a non-intimidating way.
“There’s nothing offered here in Bell County in the way of exercise and physical training for the special needs population,” she said. “There could be trainers that I’m not aware of.”
The two decided to collaborate.
T-FIT, Texas Functionally Inclusive Training, just got started and Ayers and Crixell are trying to get the T-FIT name out there.
“We’re doing a summer camp at Oak Creek Academy, an inclusion school from pre-K to 12th grade in Killeen,” Ayers said. “We’re looking at doing one-on-one sessions with any and everybody. We work with all ages and all disabilities.”
The movements that are practiced are movements the person would use in everyday life, Ayers said. There are a lot individuals with chronic diseases that can be traced back to having a sedentary lifestyle — diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease.
Crixell said he sees strength deficiencies in his son.
“I have to get him stronger so he’s not dealing with a lot of issues as he ages,” he said.
For information, see www.txfit.org.
Lynda Schumann has been involved with horses all of her adult life.
“I wanted a horse when I was little but I didn’t get one,” Schumann said.
Schumann had a riding accident about 14 years go. Her skull was fractured and she had a brain bleed.
The recovery was difficult and she gave up teaching horse riding for fear she wouldn’t be able to make the right decision in an emergency situation.
Schumann had another serious accident later while feeding her horse. Her jaw was broken in multiple places, her chin was split and she had a concussion.
A medical technologist by training, Schumann had been a riding instructor. She knows about horse management, and with the facilities she now has at the farm where she and her husband, Bell County Commissioner Bill Schumann, live she’d like to see those who use horses for therapy to make use of what’s available.
“I’m not a therapist, but I gathered people who work with the special needs community, trauma and disabilities of all kind for a presentation,” Schumann said. “I showed different modalities in equine therapy.”
There’s equine associated psychotherapy, equine associated learning and hippotherapy.
An open house was held at the farm with different therapists demonstrating how horses help with varied medical and mental issues, she said.
An Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association trained therapist has been working at the Schumann farm using their horses for about three years. The client interacts with the horse on the ground with a therapist and equestrian.
Schumann said she was attending the Committee on People with Disabilities meeting to share information about her farm and horses so others could spread the word of what she has available.
Not all equine therapy requires riding the horse. Some individuals who spend time brushing the horse have benefited from the activity, she said.
The farm has a wooded area and creek beds.
“It’s all very quiet and peaceful,” she said. “I believe there is a healing force in nature and then you add the horses and it’s a very powerful tool.”
“Horses are prey animals and are always in the moment,” Schumann said. “The horse is sensitive to its surroundings, including the mood of individuals that come into its space.”
The committee’s next meeting will be 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 17 at the Bell County Expo Center board room.