Harris' Heroes: Simple Changes helps disabled children

Simple Changes builds bonds, helps disabled children

At Simple Changes Therapeutic Riding Center, 15 year-old Lia Winnard is in control.

“I’m in charge and I sometimes like to be like that,” Winnard said.

The Lorton Ranch helps children with disabilities and their families reach simple goals.

“I had lots of volunteers help me out. Later I progressed into trotting. Recently I learned to canter,” Winnard said.

Lia was diagnosed with mild Cerebral Palsy at birth. Doctors gave her a grim prognosis, but at just four years old, she started riding at Simple Changes.

“It makes me happy for the time I'm riding and it just cheers me up,” Winnard said.

She can ride independently and is making remarkable progress in school. Winnard is just one of dozens of kids who have made great strides at Simple Changes.

“We’ve seen kids that couldn’t walk before...walk…because, riding the horse simulates that movement,” said Emily Billey, a Simple Changes volunteer.

“We've seen kids who were nonverbal who actually start to speak a little bit with the horses,” Billey said.

Riders also gain social skills, and improved sequencing and body control.

Ashleigh Tootle, 6, was diagnosed with autism at three years old. Her mother says that Simple Changes has made huge changes in her daughter’s life.

“It just makes me so happy that she has this. She’s really excited about this,” said Allynne Tootle, Ashleigh’s mother.

“You just sometimes wonder about what they'll have, qualities of life and opportunities. This is giving her the opportunity to be a little kid and do something she's passionate about...that's priceless,” Tootle said about Ashleigh.

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