USD Magazine, Winter 2004


was deaf.The very first time he rode, he started signing, and the third time, he walked. I was totally fascinated by it." The physical therapist explained the concept of thera– peutic riding to the amazed Hill– McQueeney, who immediately began researching the physical and emotional benefits the activ– ity can have for children. At the same time, she looked into fo rming a nonprofit organization for children. Less than a year later, Hill– McQueeney co-founded Cowboy Dreams,a nonprofit therapeutic riding program for

Hill-McQueeney says. "They gain a great deal of self-esteem because they are able to ride a 1,000-pound animal." Therapeutic riding centers, which were first developed in the I960s, use the rhythm of riding to stimulate the pelvis and trunk in disabled children, help– ing improve balance, posture and strength.The horse's rhythmic gait also helps improve breath– ing, swallowing and sound pro– duction, which promotes speech function .At the same time, the children bond with the animal and build self-confidence.

Meggan Hill-McQueeney Rounds Up Better Lives for Kids M eggan Hill-McQueeney's love affair with horses began at the age of 3,

But it wasn't until 1995, wh.ile teaching riding at a ranch in Colorado, that the psychology major and 1994 graduate found her true calling - using horses to help children with disabilities. "I met a gal who was a physi– cal therapist; she had a client and wanted to work with him while he was riding on back of a horse," says Hill-McQueeney. "He had Down syndrome and

children with physical and mental challenges. "While there are other areas of their lives these children cannot control, when they learn to control the animals it's very empowering;'

when her parents bought her a pair of Shetland ponies. By mid– dle school she was competing in horse shows. After high school, she managed a racing stable in her native New Mexico, and for two summers during college was a wrangler at aWyoming ranch.

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