Sam Aker is an 11 year old boy, soon to be 12, who lives with his parents, Dean and Kathy, and fraternal
twin siblings in the Old North End. When he was four years old he was diagnosed with Sanfilippo
Syndrome, a rare and progressive neurological disease which is terminal.
One of Sam’s important therapies is his Equine-Assisted therapy at Colorado Springs Therapeutic Riding
Center. He has been riding horses to help him live with some of his limitations since 2009. He has a
very remarkable instructor, Jamie Harrison, and she has been very integral in his therapy and his overall
progress. She is kind, focused and highly skilled in helping Sam achieve the goals she has set for him for
the week and month. Together, with his horse Bubba, they help make Sam’s life just a little bit better
with each ride.
Because the gait of a horse when walking is a gentle, repetitive movement, it moves the rider’s body
in way that is very similar to the human gait; physically disabled riders often achieve greater flexibility,
muscle strength, and balance. This type of therapy can improve balance, posture, mobility, reactive
time, as well as improve problems such as emotional, cognitive, behavioral, communicative, and social
His Mother, Kathy, has noticed that since Sam has been riding Bubba and working with Jamie, he can
now go from lying down to sitting up on his own. This is a huge achievement for Sam.
Sanfilippo Syndrome keeps Sam at a very large risk for painful hip and leg contractures and his Equine-
Assisted therapy helps to keep him stretched and flexible. His balance, both while walking and standing,
is much better and she feels that without his work at CSTRC he would be not have the physical ability
to make these small, but very important gains in his muscle tone and over physical strength. He is
sitting up straighter and this helps with his breathing and lung function and signals a strengthening in his
vertebrae and neck muscles.
Sam, Jamie, and Bubba have a very special bond and even though his Equine-Assisted therapy will not
cure his disease, his work each week is very special and meaningful, especially to Kathy and Dean.
If you are interested in knowing more about Equine-Assisted therapy at Colorado Springs Therapeutic
Riding Center please contact Nancy Harrison @ (719) 634-4173; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.cstrc.org