Image of Lara, a special horse girl


Lara, a special horse girl

The powerful calm that horses emanate enchants many a girl. For Lara, however, the connection with her neighing friends has a special meaning.

Friday is horse day for eight-year-old Lara. Every week, Ina Albert drives her daughter to the idyllically located farm in Schönenberg, Zurich, after school. The animal-assisted therapy that Rita Eichenberger offers has little to do with pony rides. The focus is on communication with the horse and building mutual trust. This develops slowly and naturally when Lara fetches "her" horse from the pasture and prepares it for the riding lesson. Since she was three years old, she has regularly spent an afternoon with her beloved animals and is making incredible progress.

A diagnosis with great consequences

Lara was born with a rare genetic disorder called Phelan-Mc-Dermid syndrome. This is a disease whose symptoms often only become apparent after the baby is born. The motor and cognitive impairments are manifested, among other things, in muscle weakness and a lack of speech development. This is also the case with Lara. The girl, who was actually very active and upbeat, developed in an unusual way. With the clarifying diagnosis from genetics, these symptoms finally received a name.  From then on, Ina Albert and her partner were able to gather information and exchange ideas with other affected families. They looked for suitable support services and came across equine-assisted therapy - an absolute stroke of luck for Lara.

More self-confidence thanks to the horse

While Lara is slow to gain confidence with people, she immediately feels at ease with animals. Handling the horses and riding itself have brought about amazing developments in her. "At the beginning, Lara could only sit a few meters on a horse, but after two years she could already trot," Ina Albert enthuses. "With every therapy lesson, Lara's coordination and muscle tone improved, which was reflected in a much more confident walk. It's also impressive that Lara only manages to catch a ball while sitting on the horse and not when she's standing on the ground." A year ago, due to a formal change, the supplementary insurance stopped covering the costs for the lessons with Rita Eichenberger. In order to continue providing Lara with the valuable lessons, they turned to the  Fred Tschanz Foundation .

School of Life for the Whole Family

The Fred Tschanz Foundation also supports the family in attending sign language classes. "Lara speaks only a few words and thus does not have an easy time expressing her needs. That has a lot of potential for frustration," admits Ina Albert. The concept of "aided communication" opened up new possibilities for the family. "Thanks to the use of sign language and pictograms, Lara can communicate much better and also understand us better," says Ina Albert, who is involved in the Phelan McDermid Society in addition to her research job at the ZHAW. "I wish that our society would increasingly address the issue and implement the right to communication for people with special needs as well."