By Paul Burton

HANOVER (CBS) – Families say their children with special needs are thriving thanks to a therapeutic horse riding program supported by the Special Olympics.

The children are getting a chance to bond with horses at the Briggs Stable in Hanover.

On Sunday, children took part in the Massachusetts Special Olympics Therapeutic Riding competition. Dozens of kids with special needs were judged on their riding skills.

horse1 Children With Special Needs Thriving Thanks To Therapeutic Horse Riding Program

A horse rider at a Special Olympics event in Hanover. (WBZ-TV)

Heidi Branca is a therapeutic riding instructor.

“The horses adjust their demeanor for the student. The motion of the horse, the companionship of the horse.”

Kyle Polischuk’s daughter Esme is a veteran rider. She’s being doing it for years.

“She’s been riding since she’s three. And this is one of the places she is most confident,” she said.

horse2 Children With Special Needs Thriving Thanks To Therapeutic Horse Riding Program

A rider is brought to tears receiving her medal. (WBZ-TV)

Laurie Forth’s son is also benefiting from the program.

“For him definitely with social skills, as well as occupational therapy skills,” Forth said.

The adults in attendance were thrilled to see just how much the competition means to the young riders.

“You see smiles where there were none,” one family member said.

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