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March 27--RURAL HOLDEN -- Kathy Kiener said she survived a mobile home fire "because I have something to do."
That "something," may be connected to the nonprofit, therapeutic horse riding business she started in November.
Kiener said a Pathways counselor suggested horse therapy to her during a therapy session conducted at Kiener's residence for Ashley Rinehart, who had been sexually abused by her father from the age of 5, and for Rinehart's son. She said she befriended Rinehart and the boy after they moved to Rinehart's aunt's residence in the neighborhood.
"They came down and saw the horses," Kiener said, "and through the years, we became best friends."
"The counselor asked if I had considered doing therapy," she said.
The suggestion took hold.
Kiener took a voluntary layoff from her job at EnerSys to begin her enterprise.
"I got started for Ashley," she said, adding the enterprise "just took off" after she began posting information on Facebook.
A Lee's Summit home school group asked to bring students out who had never seen farm animals.
"I saw how the kids reacted to the horses and the horses to the kids," Kiener said. "What's better than helping kids?"
A friend -- with an autistic boy who would not talk -- brought him out, she said. Kiener put him on a horse she led around. At first the boy appeared scared.
"He was bent over and had a death grip," Kiener said, adding the boy said, "Too fast."
She slowed the horse, and soon the boy said, "Faster."
After awhile, the youngster relaxed and began patting the horse's butt and neck, she said.
Several days later, the friend brought the boy back, this time decked out in cowboy boots and hat.
As she walked the horse around, he put his hands in the air, "all cocky," she said.
"It was cooler than cool to see," Kiener said.
After the riding session, she said, the friend reported her son "was much more at peace at home that week."
Kiener said, "He connected with a big horse. ... It empowers them and gives them self confidence."
She incorporated Bay Acres Therapeutic Horsemanship as a 501(c)3 organization and has been providing free services to clients who "come from everywhere" after learning about Bay Acres "mostly just by word of mouth."
She said she also placed a vinyl sign at the Highway 131 intersection that drew "a lot of people off the road."
Kiener said, "I just got started and then winter came."
She has joined the Professional Association of Therapy Horsemanship and plans to become a licensed horse therapist.
Because of the fire, Kiener said, "I have to put that on hold for a while."
Meanwhile, a therapist friend who can bill insurance will provide the therapy.
"I love the kids coming out here," she said, "It's going to be a fun place this summer."
She said she also hopes to expand to provide therapeutic horsemanship for veterans, particularly those with post-traumatic stress syndrome.
"PTSD is handled really well with horse therapy," she said.
"I'm looking forward to getting the vets out here," Kiener said.
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