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Oregon's patients learn key skills in horse therapy program

At Lakeview Heights, a residential treatment center for the mentally ill in Pendleton, Oregon, residents have been introduced to some peculiar newcomers: horses. The East Oregonian reports that four geldings now live in a barn on center grounds and help the patients through an equine-assisted therapy program.

Lakeview Heights treats individuals with severe varieties of mental illness. According to the news source, the patients have not yet ridden the horses, but instead groom, lead and feed the animals in group therapy sessions. The participants reportedly have been developing their reasoning skills, learning to manage their emotions and seeing boosts in their moods through equine therapy.

Program manager April Flanagan, told the news source that she teaches "people to think for themselves and figure out problems" by interacting with the horses.

Though combining equine-assisted therapy with mental illness treatment is a relatively novel concept, Flanagan is convinced that "when you put [people] around horses, good things happen."

Two of the horses are rescue animals, and were neglected and underweight when they first came to the center, The East Oregonian notes. Nearly five to seven million companion animals are put in shelters each year and are looking for a home, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 
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