How horse therapy helped Arkansas girl speak again


A few weeks before her father was killed in the line of duty, Riverlyn Scrimshire received a speech problem diagnosis. Her voice came back thanks to a horse.

Beginning in 2020, Rachel and Brent Scrimshire found themselves seeking advice from therapists on how to handle Riverlyn, their 2-year-old daughter, who has been diagnosed with a speech problem.

She has apraxia of speech, according to her diagnosis, said Rachel. Because of a neuromotor condition, her brain has trouble instructing her tongue to move.

A month later, without their father, Rachel and her two kids found themselves in this difficult situation.
After pulling a couple stopped for a traffic check, Hot Springs Police Department officer Brent Scrimshire was shot and murdered that March.

With just five to seven words in her vocabulary at age two and a half, you can image how distressed a child may be, Rachel said. It was difficult for her and me to deal with that and her anguish while having only five to seven words to say.
After her father’s death, Rachel claimed she saw her daughter withdraw into a shell.

Riverlyn experimented with many therapies and treatments in the years that followed, traveling all across the state.
In Benton, Riverlyn had her first experience with horse therapy, but the process was cumbersome and the improvement was gradual.
The Scrimshires discovered the Sunshine Therapeutic Riding Center (STRC) in Pearcy amid the night; Katja Summerlin had been operating the institution for a year.

STRC focuses on hippotherapy, a rapidly expanding discipline that involves teaming people with horses to treat a range of conditions and impairments.
Summerlin stated, “We began the previous year. “I knew going in that this was going to be a high-cost business, so it was somewhat of a challenge for me to commit to this.”
The Scrimshires were aware that horse therapy was not an exact science since various horses can communicate differently with different riders depending on their gaits or walking patterns.


It took some trial and error until the little girl, whose sadness had silenced her, teamed up with Steeler, a heartbroken old horse.

When we chose him, we learned about him because, according to Summerlin, he had recently lost a pasture friend and was in need of a new home.
Last summer, the child and her new horse pal began to stroll together in a sandy ring, but one day the counselors decided to shift them to a nearby field.
Summerlin remarked, “I kid you not, as soon as that movement started to be different with the tougher surface, it was like someone turned the tap on. It just began pouring out of her in a deluge of babbling and syllables.
Rachel was ecstatic with the unexpected success.
“It was simply so obvious,” Rachel remarked. “More words, fluidity, and pronunciation were present. All of that, she simply left. And I think, “Wow.””
Riverlyn seemed to have little trouble expressing her plans for the summer. She boldly swung her leg over the saddle and walked with Steeler while maintaining a fairly well-trained posture or “seat.”
Summerlin continued, “If I didn’t see it, I wouldn’t believe it.

In a few months, Riverlyn will begin kindergarten, and according to her therapists, her apraxia has improved from severe to mild.

The young girl’s inner words were released by Steeler’s gait.
He seems to be extremely nice to her, according to Summerlin, who was speaking of the horse and rider couple. He and Riverlyn share a unique connection.
According to Rachel, “She was unhappy, depressed, and angry.” She was able to express what she needed and wanted, and after simply mounting the horse, her mood entirely altered, returning her to her former self.

No matter how you combine it—part new-age spirit, half neuroscience—it still feels magical.

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