WBRZ - A young man from Denham Springs believes it is his disability that gives him a special gift to communicate with animals. And when horses or dogs are suffering from emotional pain after being abandoned or neglected, Joseph Lockwood is the one you call to help.
For 25 years, children and adults have been going to LaPlace for a special kind of therapy. This therapeutic riding center has helped people with physical and cognitive disabilities grow in strength and mobility with the help of horseback riding. "We had some instances of children that were told they would never walk, and the little boy's now walking with a walker and with crutches," said Anita Hefler, the Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Therapeutic Riding Center in Laplace.
Last summer, Hefler got a call about a team of neglected horses in extremely bad shape. She decided to take them in. One was a stallion that had become feral, completely wild from not being touched or handled.
"It took us three attempts to catch him,” Hefler said. “LSU (Veterinary School) went with us on the last trip.” ‘Meaux Jeaux’ was calmed some by becoming a gelding, but there was still a long way to go. Then one day a deaf young man born in Hungary came to help. His name is Joseph Lockwood.
His South Louisiana story began when Carole Montgomery of Baton Rouge adopted this deaf toddler into her family. But as Joseph grew up, something became apparent. He has an IQ of 156. That is classified as a genius. After begging for a horse, he got one at the age of seven. Within just three months of training, he became a champion in the hunter-jumper category. His trainer knew Joseph had something special.
"When I looked at Meaux Jeaux and felt him, we looked eye-to-eye. It's like we connected, but our eye contact with one another caused him to calm," Lockwood signed. Joseph went to Virginia for formal training and became certified and licensed in Equissage. He started a nonprofit called Hooves and Paws Equine and Canine Therapy, providing professional massage therapy services for horses and dogs to bring them physical and psychological healing.
He believes being deaf has helped his other senses become more fine-tuned. "I think hearing people would not be as focused visually and I think my senses are strong and, you know, it's funny because it's like dogs and horses know I'm deaf," he said. A true horse whisperer doesn't have to HEAR anything.
For more on the horse therapy program in LaPlace click here.
For more on Joseph's horse and dog program click here.