The Rancho Universo Equestrian and Horse Sanctuary located 11 kilometers east of San Miguel in Cozumel, provides equine therapy to people with disabilities. Owner and equine therapy specialist Liliana Velasco-Ariza works primarily with children up to the age of seven who may have cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, speech or cognitive impairments or other challenges.
“Each child is different, but one of the first things that happen when they get on a horse is that it produces endorphins,” Liliana explained. “Some giggle like crazy when they get on the horse.”
The therapy can also promote strengthening and toning of muscles, increase mobility, release pain and have other physical, psychological and emotional benefits.
Liliana and William, her therapy horse, teamed up with Friends of Cozumel volunteers to offer therapy sessions at no cost to local children. For each therapy session, three volunteers are needed to help stabilize the child and to lead the horse while Liliana instructs the child on positioning and movements.
Prior to her nine years with the horse sanctuary in Cozumel, Liliana studied with the International Riding for the Disabled Association, the British Horse Society and the Asociación Mexicana de Equitación Terapéutica.
Liliana recommends therapy sessions twice a week for six months to a year. It’s typically an expensive therapy, but Liliana donates her expertise and horses to reach as many children with disabilities as possible. She would like more children to have the opportunity, and is willing to train the volunteers needed for the therapy.
Supplies not available on the island are also needed for the therapy: safety helmets in child sizes, exercise bandages, hoof picks, saddle pads and lead ropes.
Contact Information to volunteer to help with riding therapy or provide donations:
Rancho Universo Equine Therapist: Liliana Velasco-Ariza
Cell: (Local dial): 044-987-113-4394
Location: Transversal Road Km 11.3