BREMEN — After seeing one of the members of their group flourish while working with horses, members of the Cullman Traumatic Brain Injury Support Group were able to get their own equine experience during a trip to Pair O’ Docs Farm Wednesday morning.
Group member Andrew Winfrey, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after a car accident in 2012, has been working with horses since 2015 and making weekly trips to Pair O’ Docs Farm since February, said his mother, Holly Winfrey.
In that time, Andrew has made great strides, as he started riding with guides all around him for support, but has progressed to the point where he no longer needs a guide staying next to him and can ride on his own, Holly said.
“That’s what he wanted, was to be independent,” she said.
Along with allowing him to be more independent, Andrew’s work with horses for the last several years has brought about several improvements in his day-to-day life, including his balance, core and fine motor skills, Holly said.
“He’s come a long way,” she said. “A very long way.”
After other members of the TBI Support Group heard about Andrew’s visits to the farm, and saw how he had responded to them, they wanted to come out and see the horses for themselves.
Alabama Head Injury Foundation Resource Coordinator Dianne Pierson said Wednesday’s visit to Pair O’ Docs Farm was the first time that the group had come out to the farm, but the group’s members had been looking forward to the trip.
“We are very excited to be here,” she said.
Pierson said working with horses provides a great opportunity for people with disabilities because it’s a new experience that can require them to step up and work with the horses on their own, and that can be scary sometimes, Pierson said.
“Therapeutic horsemanship is amazing for people with disabilities,” she said. “It’s a great way for them to find out more about what they can do, and not what they can’t do.”
The Cullman TBI Support Group meets every month, and Pierson said she hopes to get the word out to more people in the community who are looking for support or want to get together with others who are going through some of the same things.
“The most important things about support groups are being together and making friends, and finding people who are in the same boat,” she said. “There are people with traumatic brain injuries who don’t know about the group, so I’m always trying to reach out and find new people.”
For more information about the Alabama Head Injury Foundation and its local support groups, call 1-800-433-8002 or visit ahif.org.