A Healing Ride

In the Colorado Rockies, a horseback riding program called Pegasus provides therapy for the disabled. Those horses are trained 100 miles south, by inmates from Colorado's Canyon City prison. There, the inmates take wild horses and train them for use in the Pegasus program, giving inmates a way of reaching beyond their walls to help others. CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.


It can be hard to reach Christopher Lyons, a 7-year-old with cerebral palsy who is confined to a wheel chair.

"You see him in the chair - he's not really talking to you. He's not saying anything right now," says his mother, Theresa Lyons.

But a horse named Convict closes the distance. "That horse just wakes something up in him," says Ms. Lyons.

In the Colorado Rockies, the Pegasus program, which uses horses to help the disabled, is breathing new life into some old cowboy wisdom that says there's nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse.

Christopher's mother explains, "we get a lot more in a hour from this than he can in a week of physical therapy."

A horse's stride matches a human's in length and pace. That allows Christopher to absorb from Convict what his cerebral palsy conspires to keep from him.

Robin Bowman of the Pegasus program says, "when we put them on the horse and they feel all that normal movement...and their brain gets to feel: 'oh, this is what normal feels like,' then we have a chance of teaching the muscles how to work correctly."

For an animal that brings such freedom to kids like Christopher, Convict might seem like a curious name. That is, until you see just where this horse comes from.

A hundred miles south, but a world away, is Colorado's Canyon City prison. At this prison, wild horses meet untamed men.

"This doesn't really look like prison, does it? No, and while I'm out here, it doesn't feel like it either," says Colby Blades, a Canyon City prison inmate.

Thirty inmate-trainers like Colby Blades take horses gathered from overpopulated wild herds, ease their fears and build their trust.

They call it "gentling" - soothing the wild out of the mustang. Once broken, these horses are calm and sure-footed, perfect for Pegasus kids.

The inmates had never seen the power of their work until we showed them Christopher and Convict. For a few moments it seemed the "gentlers" had themselves been "gentled."

"You can't help but to be happy when a little kid like that is happy. And it's kind of neat to know you can reach out and touch someone... even from in here," says Randy Devaney, another Canyon City inmate.

Inside a prison, a horse has learned to trust a man. Outside those walls, a boy has learned to trust a horse.

Theresa Lyons, Christopher's Mom says, "I figure if we can do this in four weeks, in eight weeks wha is he going to be doing?"

All three have learned that when trust conquers fear, the possibilities seem endless.


For more information on the Pegasus program, call
303 972-3598 or go to their Web site: Normandyfarmandstables.com .

CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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