Published: Sep 18, 2011 2:52 PM EDT
Updated: Sep 19, 2011 6:25 AM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla.- Horses are lending a helping hoof to people who need them. A program in Fort Myers allows those with disabilities to get physical therapy while riding.


For Emma Ravish, coming to the Special Equestrian stables is her favorite part of the week. The hour she spends there allows her to forget about her disability, saddle up and ride.

"I really love horses so its like they're a part of me. It's really fun," Ravish said.

The therapeutic horse riding program is entering its 25th year helping physically and mentally challenged kids and adults overcome their disabilities.

"It's pretty amazing. It brings tears to your eyes sometimes hearing a kid who has never spoken before ask their horse to walk for their first word that's pretty amazing," said instructor Justin Parchem.

The program is fueled by volunteers who walk alongside the riders until they're strong enough to ride alone.

"You don't look at what their disabilities are you look at what their abilities are what they can do on a horse is just incredible and to watch them grow and develop and be part of that is one of the most rewarding things I've ever done," said volunteer coordinator Priscilla Kovalsky.

After seven years of experience, Emma laughs thinking about how far she has come since her first ride.

"I was gripping on, holding on really tight. I was really nervous, I don't have that good of balance but now i'm of the lead I don't have any side walkers and I'm good at balancing," she said.

Some students reach goals as simple as sitting up on a horse.. while others, like Emma, can do more advanced tricks like playing soccer. But the one thing they all have in common is their love for their special friends.

"You can tell when they get here they run from their cars and they have a big smile on their face or they cry when they have to get off so its pretty amazing to see what it means to them," Parchem continued.

The program is in desperate need of volunteers. If you'd like to get involved you can go to http://www.specialequestrians.net