It was 2014 and my 4-year old son, Xander, had just been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. A Healing Reins Instructor happened to stop at the gas station where I worked and I saw her Healing Reins shirt and asked her what that was. I hadn’t heard of Therapeutic Riding, but I contacted Healing Reins right away and the connection between Xander and his horse, Toby, was immediate!
Xander has been riding Toby for four years now. He’s tried other horses, but he and Toby share a special bond. When Xander started, he communicated using “stop” and “go” buttons. Now he’s able to use the reins and no longer needs the buttons. This is just one of many skills he’s been able to develop, mainly because being with Toby and being outdoors calms and soothes him. In those moments, Xander is free from his anxiety and fears. That, combined with the understanding, patience and caring of his instructors, sets him up for success and he’s able to learn new things.
Healing Reins has been a place of comfort and acceptance for Xander. Though we’ve had our ups and downs, Xander has had impressive triumphs and made improvements thanks to all of the wonderful instructors, volunteers—and Toby!
The Fincher Family
I’ve been riding at Healing Reins since I was 2 – years old. Now, at 14, I’ve been riding for twelve years! When I started in Hippotherapy, I needed three volunteers plus the instructor to keep me stable on the horse. All of the grooming and tacking up was done for me.
The summer I was 11, I attended a Healing Reins horse camp where I learned about horse body-language and horse anatomy and I got to ride a lot! Even then, I still had three people holding me on the horse. My legs were getting stronger though, and I was getting more confident. After camp, I started Therapeutic Riding with one side walker and a leader. I was learning how to groom, tack up, and even clean the horse’s hooves.
After a year, I asked for more and it worked—I was placed in a more advanced class. There I had a leader, but no volunteers. I was carrying saddles 100% alone. I felt more independent. After months of that, I got to the point where I had no leader. Everything was on me! I was proud to have come so far.
I currently ride a calm horse named Toby. He sometimes gets feisty, but that is a good challenge for me. I am so thankful to Healing Reins for helping me love and enjoy riding. I’m grateful I can ride independently. I have so much ambition and hope for riding in the future. It goes to show that Cerebral Palsy and being legally blind cannot stop you. Riding is a wonderful passion of mine and I’ll be doing it for the rest of my life!
Maya A., Rider
We are beyond grateful for all the work Healing Reins continues to do for our daughter. Blessings!
Wendy A., Maya’s mom
Joseph was born with a chromosomal abnormality called 1p36 Deletion Syndrome. He has been seen in physical therapy since he was an infant, and in equine-assisted physical therapy at Healing Reins (often called Hippotherapy) for the past 11 years. When he started riding at age 2, he was unable to sit up independently. His core strength and balance have improved tremendously over the past decade and much of that can be attributed to his time spent riding Toby. He looks forward to riding every week, he uses his communication device to “request Toby,” and he makes his signature “Toby noise” constantly to let us know that he would very much like to ride every day!
Riding Toby at Healing Reins is a big part of Joseph’s life and a continual source of joy and friendship. His longtime therapist, Georgia, and side-walker volunteer, Carol, both recently retired. Joseph continues to look forward to riding weekly with his physical therapist, Lori, and his horse who has been a constant in his life for many years—Toby.
Carmela and Ken S., Joseph’s parents
We can’t thank Healing Reins enough for giving our daughter, Kate, the opportunity to receive Therapeutic Riding through a scholarship, especially at a time when our resources were very limited. This is the most beneficial form of therapy for her Cerebral Palsy yet.
Kate enjoys the weekly therapy and is getting to know her instructor and horse better. She continues to make slow, but steady, gains. We have noticed these gains outside of therapy. She uses her balance bike to go on rides in our neighborhood.
My husband expressed surprise when he saw her on a recent bicycle ride, and he connected this to her Therapeutic Riding.
Her core is stronger, her balance better, and she can endure rides longer than just a minute or two. Recently, we rode on and off for about a mile (!) to our local playground. I had my husband meet us with the truck, worried that Kate would be too tired to make it back. Quite the contrary, she insisted on riding and walking back home, even though the way home is on an incline.
We look forward to seeing further progress in Kate’s physical abilities and confidence.
Todd and Jeanette W., Kate’s parents