PIPE CREEK -- Lisa Barrett doesn t stop smiling when she s spending time with Bo, a dark and handsome thoroughbred.

It s because riding on top of Bo is nothing like riding in her wheelchair. Atop of Bo, she gets to mingle with friends. Atop of Bo, she s the one holding the reigns.

Lisa, 36, has cerebral palsy. She doesn t control her body well, doesn t speak well and relies mostly on other people to push her around in a wheelchair.

Lisa is the oldest rider in her class of four. Most riders in the Riding to Independence program are between 5 and 16 years old.

All of them have some sort of physical or mental disability. Thirty percent are autistic while the others have Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and other disabilities.

On top of the horses, however, their daily struggles fade as they concentrate on the half-ton animal beneath them.

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