MARSING - Two miles south of Marsing, Idaho, there's a very special place called 'CARE-ousel' Therapeutic Riding.
For many patients here, the experience of riding one of the center's therapy horses is more than just a fun time -- it's a way to bridge some sort of gap, or perhaps to find a missing piece of their lives.
You could even say it's a place where people with disabilities thrive on horseback.
Marsing's Kim Cercle-Kent started the unique therapy center 9 years ago. Cercle-Kent is originally from Modesto, CA, where she also runs another horse therapy center. She commutes on a weekly basis.
Cercle-Kent told KTVB that her goal is to help people with physical and emotional problems -- people like 17-year-old Nathan Babitt, who struggles with autism.
Nathan's mom, Shelley Babitt, says Nathan has been attending horse therapy at the CARE-ousel center for 4 years now, and it hasn't always been easy for him.
Babitt said at first, Nathan didn't want to do the work involved with caring for a horse. Now, she says she's in awe of the progress he's made. He didn't want to saddle the horse, he didn't want to brush the horse, and now he can do it all, Babitt told KTVB.
Director Kim Cercle-Kent says Nathan's story is typical of many patients who come to the center.
A lot of our kids here fall in the spectrum of autism, Cercle-Kent said, adding, It's remarkable what they can do on a horseback, there are no limitations on a horse.
Some might ask: what are the special skills horse therapy can help people learn?
Cercle-Kent tells KTVB that horse therapy -- properly called hippotherapy -- can help people with developmental disabilities to gain both mental and physical skills.
It increases their posture, their social skills -- they learn to make eye contact -- it improves muscle coordination, Cercle-Kent said.
Marsing's talented hippotherapist also says many patients grow to become like our extended family, and says it's exciting to track their progress in the saddle.
There's no describing it -- the feeling you have when their parents come back and say my child did this, and they tell you you are the reason why... there's no better feeling than you are a part of that, Cercle-Kent said.
Shelley Babitt says she's totally convinced that her son, Nathan, is benefiting from Cercle-Kent's hard work and the positive experiences he's enjoyed at CARE-ousel.
She totally cares, Babitt said. My son was mean to her to begin with. She was so big spirited, and she said I'm just going to love him and she has.
Babitt added: He can do things that I never thought I'd see him do.