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Healing through animals

Side walkers Mick Kurowski (left) and Gina Brittwork with four-year-old Savannah Jablonski of Twin Lakes, Wis., on a horse named Dolly during a riding session at the Main Stay Therapeutic Riding Program in Richmond. (Photo by Travis Haughton)

They’ve taught children to walk, talk and laugh without saying a word.

And they’ve done so in ways that still amaze those who work with them daily.

The use of animals for human therapy, whether it be horses, dogs or other animals, has grown in both frequency and awareness as more come to realize just how effective they can be.

“Animals change lives,” says Sara Foszcz, who founded Main Stay Therapeutic Riding in Richmond.

A life-long horsewoman, Foszcz turned her boarding and training facility into a non-profit organization solely serving people with special needs nearly 25 years ago.

With about 100 volunteers, Main Stay now helps at least 80 students a week, ranging in age from 3 to a recent 91-year-old rider.

Instructors and horses work with children with developmental, physical and learning disabilities, abused children, paraplegics, sexual assault victims and children deemed at risk. The latest students include a group of seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.

To read the full story, pick up the latest issue of McHenry County Magazine.