Jillian the Pony Helps Children with Special Needs

Jillian the Therapy Horse
Jillian gives one of the children a ride. Photo via Journey of Hope 4 Autism/Facebook

Horses have an amazing ability to bring us comfort and joy, to bring us out of our sadness and alleviate our anger and fear. Time and again we hear about the power of equine therapy, whether it’s helping veterans and first responders with PTSD, or, as is the case here, assisting children with special needs.

At Journey of Hope 4 Autism in Chesterfield, Virginia, Jillian offers warmth and motherly support. And yes, Jillian is a horse.

“She loves the children. She thinks of them as their babies. She has a high maternal instinct,” Jillian’s caretaker, Victoria Bryant, told CBS 6. “Everyone is drawn to her; whether you [are] 1-year-old or 50-years-old, they all gravitate to her.”

Bryant is the founder of Journey of Hope 4 Autism. She offers various programs for the children, including equine-assisted services, birthday parties, assisted riding, spa days, camps, leadership and problem solving, anti-bullying and more. “I would do anything for these kids,” Bryant told CBS 6. “It builds self-confidence. They should be able to take what they learn here and make it part of their life. I love it. It warms my heart. I go home with the best feeling in the world.”

Blake Bennett, a 4-year-old boy with anxiety and autism, is one of the children who benefits from Jillian. His mother, Heather, told CBS 6, “Trying anything new is really hard because he is scared of it. He is not anxious. He is not scared. He is not worried. He just feels free here.”

MJ Keatts, the mother of Aiden Keatts – who, like Bennett, lives with autism – told CBS 6 that no medicine compares to what equine therapy has given her son. “It is a really special thing. There is no price you can put on watching him in this state.”

Click here to find out more about Journey of Hope 4 Autism.



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