Four-year-old Abigail Fantz has cerebral palsy. She can't walk without a walker, and the disease taxes her little back and limbs. But you wouldn't know it from her big smiles and giggles as she is led gingerly around a track on the back of Pippin, a specially trained pony.
This is hippotherapy, a horse-based therapy program that Abigail's family hopes will help her strengthen her body and eventually walk without aide.
Abigail trains at Forward Stride, a therapeutic equestrian center in Beaverton, Oregon. According to the organization's website, hippotherapy helps people like Abigail because a horse's gait is similar to that of a human's in terms of pelvic movement and rhythm. "The horse also provides a dynamic base of support, enabling the client to improve his or her trunk strength, balance, coordination, posture, and endurance," the site reads.
Aside from the physical benefits, Abigail's mother Michelle Thompson says her daughter has gained confidence and pride, not to mention a budding love for horses.
"I think, most important for us, she's gained so much confidence by being up on a horse and I love seeing how proud she is of herself," Thompson told HLN affiliate KPTV.