Vet raises money for centre where boy with cerebral palsy can learn to ride

A little boy with cerebral palsy met a Malpas vet who has helped raise money for the riding centre where he takes part in a horseback form of physiotherapy.

The parents of five-year-old Maks Butrym, from Ewloe were warned he may never walk after he developed the condition following his premature birth at just 25 weeks.

Born 15 weeks early and weighing just one pound and four ounces, little Maks has battled through a series of health problems including two serious infections as a baby which left him with cerebral palsy, a visual impairment and other special needs.

Aged one, he was only just wearing new born baby clothes and he still receives extra nutrition through a nightly feeding tube into his stomach to help him grow and build up his strength.

But despite all this, the happy youngster is now enjoying a weekly horse riding lesson which incorporates a type of physiotherapy, called Hippotherapy, run by expert Lynne Munro, at Clwyd Special Riding Centre in Llanfynydd, near Wrexham.

The specialist therapy uses the movement of the horse to provide therapeutic movement to the rider, with the aim of improving coordination, balance and core strength.

Clwyd Special Riding Centre received an £800 donation from Willows Veterinary Group via equine vet Kate Sumner of Hampton Veterinary Centre in Malpas which is part of the independently-owned veterinary group.

The group has a network of 25 small animal surgeries, a referral veterinary hospital, two equine centres and a seven-office farm practice located across Cheshire and into the Wirral, North Wales and Staffordshire.

Kate put forward Clwyd Special Riding Centre on behalf of her surgery at the Group’s Christmas party where nominated animal charities were put into a hat and two were drawn out to receive half each of the £1,600 charitable donations raised.

The other £800 went to the Cocker and English Springer Spaniel Rescue (CAESSR).

Kate, Equine Partner at Hampton Veterinary Centre, said the practice had a long standing partnership with the 30-acre Clwyd Special Riding Centre, helping to look after the health of the charity’s 24 horses.

The centre offers a variety of equine experiences including riding, carriage driving, equestrian vaulting, learning and therapy for people of all ages with additional and often complex needs.

Its facilities include an indoor and outdoor arena, a countryside challenge activity area, a learning barn, a fully simulated mechanical horse with an interactive screen, and accommodation for holidays, courses and therapy.

Kate, 38, of Malpas, said: “The breadth and scope of what the centre offers is very impressive, the team who work there are great and the horses are always well turned out and looked after which makes working with the centre a real pleasure and it’s why I nominated them.

“Meeting Maks gave me another insight and to see first-hand the enjoyment and dramatic benefits which families who use the centre are able to experience. It highlights for me the fantastic work they do and we are pleased to be able to do our bit to support it in some way.”

Maks attends Ysgol Pen Coch in Flint and lives with his younger brother Marcel, two, dad Jacek, 33, who is his full time carer and his mum Aneta, 32.

Aneta, a laboratory analysist, said: “Maks loves to go riding and it is not just the therapy he enjoys but also being around the horses.

"He loves animals and because he is visually impaired, animals are something he can get the information about through his other senses. He feels they are alive through their movement and it brings him a lot of joy.

“When he first started the riding, he couldn’t sit himself on the horse independently and he was more like, lying on them, but now he is like a different boy and sits up and rides by himself with someone walking beside him.

“It has really helped with his back and his core strength so this type of therapy is very important to his ongoing physical development.

“For me what I like most about it is that I know he loves it and enjoys it. It’s an activity he can have for himself and learn and improve at.

“It is the moment he can have a bit of happy time, a moment when he can improve and develop just like any other child and no matter what problems your child has, if you can see he is happy and enjoying something in his life then that is what it is all about.”

Lynne Munro, a Chartered Physiotherapist with a special interest in Hippotherapy, works with Maks and his family at Clwyd Special Riding Centre.

Lynne, who lives in Craven Arms, Shropshire, and has lectured on the subject of hippotherapy across the world including Brazil, Taiwan, Dublin, and the Czech Republic, said the facilities at the riding centre are vital for providing the service which benefits families like the Butryms.

Lynne, who has specialised in Hippotherapy for almost 20 years, said: “Without places like Clwyd, which is a centre of excellence for Riding for the Disabled, it would not be possible for me to work with these young children in this way.

“The fact that people and organisations like Willows Veterinary Group give generously to enable these things to happen is fantastic because it enables us to have the right kind of horses and the right kind of facilities to make it happen for these families.

“Maks has a very complex health care background. But he can come to us and with our help ride a horse and that is a huge thing for his parents to see their child achieve.

“We work together to find out how he can learn and develop with us and Maks has done very well indeed. His sitting has improved, his walking has improved and he really enjoys it.

“Children need to have fun in order for them to develop and grow and the work we do with them gives them self-confidence, improves their self-esteem and gives them a willingness to try new things.”

Sorrel Taylor, Centre Manager at Clwyd Special Riding Centre, said it costs in the region of £250,000 a year to run the centre.

She added: “Without support from Kate and Willows Veterinary Group we simply wouldn’t exist because everything we do is based on donations, fundraising and applying for grants.

“It’s a major undertaking and we can’t thank Willows Veterinary Group enough for their support.

"It’s a significant amount of money for us and when we have to work very hard for every single penny we need, a donation like this comes as a real boost.

“It’s also great to have the endorsement of a respected professional such as Kate who appreciates the work that we do to help people like Maks and his family.

“The more money we raise, the more we can do to reach out to as many children and adults with additional needs as possible and work together to make a real difference in their lives.”