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Council of Churches of the Ozarks Ends Therapeutic Riding Program

Council of Churches of the Ozarks, a non-profit organization that provides services to people in need will be discontinuing one of its most beloved programs.  KSMU’s Matthew Barnes reports.

The CCO’s Therapeutic Riding of the Ozarks program gave people with a range of disabilities including autism the opportunity to participate in therapeutic horseback riding. According to the executive director of the CCO, Mark Struckhoff the program has been an effective breakthrough therapy for many.

“A client would be accompanied by three side walkers as that client was mounted on horse back. for the most part client would experience a development improvement often times in their core muscles. Many client receive this therapy because on there own power could not walk,” says Struckhoff.

The therapy is meant to build the muscles that would normally be exercised by walking.

“The horse’s gate replicates the human walking gate. So that the core muscles that are developed through walking. And most of us just arn’t aware that we are developing those muscles as we walk but those muscles then get develop and strengthen through this kind of therapy,” says Struckhoff.

The program currently has 21 clients according to Struckhoff, and will continue until the end of the month.  

The Board of the CCO says the program didn’t have enough financial security to stay afloat. While the CCO doesn’t have the funds, Struckoff says he hopes that another organization will pick up the riding program.

It's possible the economy is to blame for some programs struggling to    exist.  Louise Knauer who works for the Community Foundation of the Ozarks says the financial hardships of the riding program may be isolated.

“We haven’t seen very many other examples like that one. Obvious it’s a tough to be in a non-profit organization in general. But we have seen a tremendous amount of growth during the rough times that we’ve had in the economy in the last couple of years in private philanthropy. We had our biggest year ever least year for gifts from donors a across the board gave $40 million dollars to our foundation and its programs,” says Knauer.

Knauer says that in the past, the fall is a time when donations have gone up as people get in the spirit of giving. However, she says some organizations may get over looked.

“One of the things we are kind of watching a little bit is whether the effect of all the contributions that people have made to help support Joplin’s recovery is going to have lingering effects on other organizations," says Knauer.

For now, it's unclear whether any other group will pick up the riding program.

For KSMU News, I’m Matthew Barnes.