BATTLE CREEK, Neb. – Now in its 30th year of service, Stephanie’s Miracles in Loving Equine, better known as S.M.I.L.E., has allowed children and adults with a wide range of cognitive, physical, and emotional conditions, the opportunity to “soothe” their minds while providing physical benefits through horseback therapeutic riding programs. Recently, some students at Northeast Community College had the opportunity to enhance their skills of caring for equine during a visit to the organization.
S.M.I.L.E, Inc., provides services to approximately 135 students per week from May through September through the use of 17 horses and ponies at its operation seven miles south of Battle Creek. The students in the veterinary technology program at Northeast traveled to the SMILE facility to learn more about the care and handling of equine and the effects therapeutic horse riding has on individuals.
Students practiced the skills they learned in the classroom to complete physical examinations on some of S.M.I.L.E.’s horses and ponies as well as clean hooves, groom, and age the animals. In addition, Pattie Prauner, S.M.I.L.E owner, explained the mission of the organization and why the work is important. It is the only horse-riding therapy program in the area.
Dr. Kassie Wessendorf, veterinary technology instructor, said the horses and ponies at S.M.I.L.E. are extremely well trained and served as perfect models for the students to practice hands-on skills.
“It was so great for the students of the vet tech program to be able to go out to S.M.I.L.E. as the visit re-enforced the skills they have been learning in class,” she said. “Since S.M.I.L.E.’s horses and ponies are so well behaved and smaller than the horses we have at the College farm, the students were able to alleviate some of their fears when working with equines.”
Classes for each student of S.M.I.L.E. Inc. are paid through scholarships, which are provided through donations. To learn more about the organization or to volunteer, go online to smilehorsetherapy.org or call (402) 675-8462.