The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

August 23, 2013

Hoofed healers | Cancer survivor, wife, plan therapy horse program

The Tribune-Democrat

JOHNSTOWN — A love of horses and compassion for others were the impetus for Frank and Cindy Kuhar to launch a therapeutic riding program.

The Vintondale couple, owners of Dutch Run Stables in Nicktown, always dreamed of opening a place where people could come and ride horses for therapeutic purposes.

“Horses have a calming effect on people,” Frank Kuhar told our Kelly Urban. “Somehow they know what you are going through. They help you forget about everything if only for a few minutes, so we really want to grow this because it makes such a difference.”

He should know. A diagnosis of Stage 4 colon cancer and subsequent treatments put a halt on his dream. But through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, Kuhar is on the road to recovery, and we wish him well.

“Through this whole treatment process, I began to realize that this dream doesn’t have to be over and we can still carry on with our plan,” he said.

That’s great news for cancer patients and survivors in the Greater Johnstown area.

Kuhar said there are 12 horses available for the program – two of his own and the others coming from Saddle Rock Ranch in Portage.

He also is trying to secure funding to help with startup costs and is taking steps to have the therapy program certified.

Using animals as healers is nothing new to this area.

Best of Friends is a 4-H affiliated organization that incorporates horseback riding as therapy for people with special needs, such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, autism and blindness.

And the Golden Girls Pet Therapy program was founded 13 years ago by Christine Fogle of Richland Township and her two golden retrievers, Hannah and Gretchen, who both, sadly, have passed away. Josiah and Gracie have stepped in and have carried on what their predecessors began.

They visit places such as hospitals and nursing homes and are involved in Conemaugh Health Foundation’s Conemaugh Caring Canines.

More importance is being placed on animals as healers and we support the many various programs that are providing help to needy individuals.