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WEST POINT, Miss. (WCBI) – Horseback riding.

For many it’s a relaxing hobby, but for some area children it offers a chance to grow physically and emotionally.

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The Mississippi State University Extension Equine-Assisted Therapy program offers children with special needs a chance to participate in therapeutic horse riding sessions.

One of the kids participating in the program is 9-year-old Nora Molina. She’s been a part of the program for the past five years.

Each Monday she comes to the Elizabeth A. Howard Therapeutic Riding Center in West Point, straps on her helmet, and saddles up to begin riding her horse.

“Nora loves it,” said Matt Molina, Nora’s father. “My wife and I, we just kind of look at each other in amazement as she’s going around each time. She’ll be waving at us or coming over to the side of the arena wanting us to her pet horse.”

To the naked eye, it looks like Nora is simply enjoying the ride, but this is more than just fun.

It’s also therapy for the second grader.

“Horses are just very naturally innately healing animals,” said Cassie Brunson, Extension Associate and Therapeutic Riding Coordinator. “We can take a kid that’s extremely anxious and nervous, put them on a horse, and they’re a totally different person.”

Nora’s father said her muscle tone is developing slower than most kids.

While she hasn’t received a definite diagnosis, the horseback riding is helping to develop and strengthen her tone.

“They have different types of agility programs to do around there,” Matt explained. “They will reach towards the side or towards the middle and it helps them build their core which helps them stand up taller.”

Matt said he wants his daughter to gain self-confidence and independence through the therapeutic riding.

“This has been kind of an extension for her to build more confidence, and to be more of a team player, and kind of build teamwork with other kids,” the father explained. “It just really helps them become just a better person overall because they’re with these large animals and it makes them calm.”

As each session comes and goes, Nora’s parents and assistants said they’re seeing progress in how she’s growing, both as a rider, but even more importantly, as a fun and adventurous 9-year-old.

“I’m so fortunate and so blessed to have this job and get to witness every day the healing that these horses can do,” Brunson expressed. “Not just from a physical standpoint, but from a self confidence standpoint and team-working standpoint, it’s amazing.”

The MSU Extension Equine Assisted Therapy program will hold a fundraising event on October 12.

It’s called Hope Rides Here.

The fundraiser will take place at the Mill Conference Center in Starkville beginning at 6:30 P.M.

For more information about this event, click here.

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