GRETNA, Neb. (KMTV) — Horses are so much more than animals to Emily Jaekel.
For her, they mean freedom.
"I can leave my chair behind," said Emily, who rides at Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy (HETRA).
"She gets to leave her chair behind when she rides. So, you know, if you walked into the arena and there are three riders and you see a wheelchair sitting there, you really don’t know whose it is, and that's one of the coolest things about it," said Amy, Emily's mom.
HETRA, a nonprofit in Gretna, offers a variety of programs adapted to people of all ages and all medical needs.
Amy said each visit benefits her daughter mentally and physically.
"It's a social time for her which is wonderful," added Amy.
With the help of staff members and volunteers, Emily improves her upper body strength and fine motor skills with each lesson.
"My instructors do a great job with me," said Emily.
Emily works hard and has for seven years. She trains twice a week, leaving HETRA feeling....
"Tired!" Emily exclaimed.
"Probably one of my very favorite moments is when a participant dismounts and you’ll see a horse and they take their head and turn around and look at that person like 'Oh, you did a good job today,'" said Edye Godden, CEO of HETRA.
Godden said there’s a unique bond between horses and humans.
"Horses are very intuitive and instinctual animals. They’re very honest about their feedback to us," Godden added.
Godden believes anyone who visits HETRA will be able to see that powerful connection for themselves.
"If you have the ability to come and see what we do here, I feel like your life will be changed," Godden said.
Just like it’s changed Emily's life — one ride at a time.
"I can’t ever imagine not doing horse therapy, right?" laughed Amy.
Volunteers are always needed at HETRA and one of the greatest gifts you can give them is your time.
No experience with horses is needed to volunteer.
To learn more, visit HETRA's website.