GaitWay empowers those with disabilities to move beyond their boundaries through the healing power of the horse.
To transform the lives of the special needs community in the Greater Baton Rouge area by providing high quality equine assisted activities and therapies.
According to the 2019 US Census Bureau, in the Greater Baton Rouge Area over 49,000 individuals under the age of 65 are living with physical or developmental disabilities. Families of individuals with disabilities expend significant time and money towards improving their physical and mental quality of life. The rising costs of medical and therapeutic services hinder access to treatment options, leads to isolation for both the person with special needs and their caregivers, and negatively impacts quality of life.
At GaitWay, improvements in physical and mental health status and addressing developmental challenges inspire a hopeful outlook. Emotional growth that fosters relationships between someone with special needs and their families changes lives. The bond between rider and horse is, for many, intense and affirming. The bond between rider and trainer builds trust necessary for an individual whose lifetime progress may rely heavily on the strength of such relationships.
For young children considered “high risk” due to physical, emotional, or developmental challenges, the opportunity for growth and improvement can help them to achieve more positive outcomes in school and beyond. For veterans and other adults, equine assisted therapy offers a channel through which they can learn to heal from emotional traumas. Equine assisted therapy is a unique form of physical therapy that transcends what modern therapeutic services and supports deliver.
Since 2005, GaitWay Therapeutic Horsemanship has been improving the health and abilities of Baton Rouge’s special needs community. What started off as a one-woman operation with just a few horses and clients has grown into a program that currently serves over 60 clients annually with 11 equine therapists and a database of over 45 active volunteers. GaitWay is overseen by a Board of Directors comprised of eight dedicated individuals from various fields. With time and enhanced community outreach, we intend to raise these numbers.
Since 2007, certification by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) has ensured that GaitWay provides the Gold Standard for Equine Assisted Activities & Therapies. To keep costs as low as possible for our clientele, we have always operated with only a few full-time employees (five currently) and a handful of part-time individuals (five to seven). Much of the work at GaitWay is carried out by volunteers and many paid employees put in regular time and effort on a voluntary basis to help our mission succeed.
Based on individual pre and post assessments of each rider, GaitWay’s programs demonstrate improved physical, cognitive, emotional, and social skills, including: language skills, processing/sequencing, decision making, social interaction, eye contact, increased attention span, reduced irritability, reduced depression, reduced outbursts, and increased happiness. For those riders with physical needs, 100% of GaitWay’s riders improve between pre and post assessment in such areas as: head control, sitting capabilities, manual dexterity, standing and walking ability, endurance, and stair climbing abilities. Such results are effectively produced as 90% of GaitWay clients reach their monthly goals within the first month and 100% within the first two months.
GaitWay offers its services to both children and adults with a wide array of disabilities in the Greater Baton Rouge area. For the individuals in this region, GaitWay is the only equine based therapy services that offers both a certified therapeutic program, and the option for financial assistance. Existing systems focus on the assistance one human can offer another; at GaitWay, the horse is a companion on the journey and the living embodiment of power through trust and collaborative effort.
Our “horse therapists” dramatically and effectively support and help these individuals in the following ways:
Physically – through a complex series of rhythmic movements that use all of the body’s muscles, riders improve their strength, posture, balance, and muscle control.
Mentally – through new and challenging tasks, riders learn concentration, sequential thought processing, spatial awareness, and critical thinking.
Emotionally – through bonding with the horse, riders develop trust, self-discipline, self-awareness, confidence, independence, motivation, and articulation of thought and emotion.
Socially – through interacting with the horse, instructor, and volunteers, riders learn kindness, empathy, and other social skills.
2021 GaitWay Board of Directors
Jolie LeBlanc, President
Helene Breaux, Vice President
Patricia Calfee, Secretary
Ryan Juneau, Treasurer