Posted: Monday, October 21, 2013 --- 9:10pm
It's a popular hobby, a great form of exercise and certainly a lot of fun. But, horseback riding is much more than that, providing a much-needed therapy to kids, like 9-year-old Jessie Crider.
Jessie has autism. His entire life he's been in therapy. But, only one program has ever truly made a deep impact: the SMILES (Special Methods In Learning Equine Skills, Inc) organization, in Darien, provides a horse-assisted therapy for kids with special needs.
"He's developed friendship and he bonded well with the horse. His listening skills developed really super well” says Jessie's mom, Melissa Crider.
Jessie's even competed in a horse show and not shy about showing off his trophy, which he calls “The Golden Jeff” in honor of his late horse.
"He doesn't realize it's actual therapy, it's just fun for him” says Melissa.
The therapy has also helped Jessie with his balance and improved his self esteem.
"I'm extremely proud, just the distance he's came since I’ve started working and just everything...his posture and confidence” says Kurtis Boss, a volunteer with SMILES.
And for Jessie, his horse is more than just an animal. It's a motivator, an inspiration and most importantly a friend.
"Let's say three words: awesome friendly and funny” says Jessie describing his horse.
To find out more information on SMILES or to make a donation, head to: