Renaissance Healing & Learning Center

Renaissance Healing & Learning Center has provided “Healing……on Horseback” for 10 years, since 1998. We provide Equine Assisted Activities and therapeutic interventions for children and adults in the special needs community. The conditions include Autism, genetic disorders, Cerebral Palsy, Developmental Delays, individuals with Learning differences, and other Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

Executive Director, and Physical Therapist Fran Sandler Judd has advanced credentials, specializing in Hippotherapy and Aquatic Therapy. Hippotherapy can only be done by a specially trained Physical, Occupational or Speech Therapist. Fran has a B.S. in Physical Therapy from Washington University in St. Louis, (1971), and has worked as a physical therapist for neurological and orthopedic conditions over these many years. She attended Western Michigan University, and received a Graduate Credential in Hippotherapy at Western Michigan University in 2000.

Physical benefits of Hippotherapy or “treatment with the help of the horse” include normalized muscle tone i.e. raise low tone, and decrease high tone (spasticity). Hippotherapy is a fantastic means for intervention that provides Sensory Integration. The reciprocal, alternating and rhythmical motion of the horse stimulates muscles used in walking, and also promotes increased core stabilization, improved balance, and coordination. It can help reduce gravitational insecurity and tactile defensiveness.

Safety is ensured by the team with the use of side-walkers, and expert horsemanship by the horse handler.

Mental health benefits of Hippotherapy include promoting a positive sense of well-being, is confidence building, and helps the individual to interact in a positive social setting. They can feel safe to build a relationship with an animal first, and by relating to the animal, where someone with ASD may have difficulty with eye contact, or relating to a person….gradually they learn to trust and relate in more appropriate ways, and the horse can bridge the gap. the horse can offer unconditional acceptance and is very forgiving to those with impulsive behaviors.

The progress that we have observed in using the horse as the “tool” in the work we do, has been significant, and also very rewarding. We have often seen immediate results in terms of behavioral changes. We have worked with teens who have ASD whose adverse behavior had caused them much trouble in other settings….and yet in our setting, there were none of those adverse behaviors. Positive change seems to occur the moment they set foot on the premises of Renaissance Healing & Learning Center.

Although this form of therapy can be a challenge, it is also very rewarding, and the results are worth it!

Renaissance Healing & Learning Center is vendorized with North Bay Regional Center. Those who have health insurance that includes Physical Therapy may be able to recover some expenses.

We offer internships and service learning opportunities to high school and local University students. Besides having a professional staff, and volunteers we also have 5 gentle, specially trained horses, one of whom is a miniature Paint.

We are centrally located 1/2 mile west of Hwy 101 between Gravenstein Hwy and Stony Pt. Rd. in Cotati. We have a covered arena, and are located in a very quiet, peaceful setting, surrounded by trees, ducks and cows .

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