When you meet 7-year old Ali at Heartland Therapeutic Riding (HTR), you would never know that every day she struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For Ali, HTR is her happy place. She feels safe and secure here; and her anxiety and stress fade away. Ali’s mother, Heidi says, “It’s who she is now! Horses are her thing … they ground her.”
Ali’s parents wanted her to find a safe place where she could accomplish goals on her own. They tried swimming, dance, and soccer, but Ali’s extreme separation anxiety and special medical needs were just too much for her to overcome.
Finding HTR gave Ali and her family hope! Our four-legged therapists help calm and relax Ali. This sense of peace is difficult for her to find beyond the walls of the barn. She is making new friends, building her self-confidence and coping skills, and even attended her first all-day summer camp at HTR.
Evan’s journey with HTR started 30 years ago. That’s right, Evan has been riding at HTR for 30 years!
“Once he gets on his horse, he’s a happy camper,” explain his parents, Debby and Millard. But that’s not how Evan started at HTR. His parents recall his first day at HTR, “Evan wasn’t happy to be at a barn! He screamed and curled into a fetal position.” It took several weeks of the HTR staff patiently working with Evan to get him on a horse. But, once he trotted with his horse, he loved it and was hooked on riding.
Evan has cerebral palsy. His parents first brought Evan to HTR to improve his balance, core strength, and flexibility. Today, Evan comes for the social interaction with his rider friends like Carl, Jason and Mo and to maintain is strength.
Through riding, Evan has increased his strength to a point where he can sit independently with confidence. This gives him freedom from his wheelchair. It’s peace of mind for his parents, but it also means Evan has the strength to participate in activities like sitting in a restaurant booth or on the front porch.
30 years of riding creates many memories like Evan’s first horse show where he smiled from ear to ear when he received his ribbon. “He was so proud of himself!” said Debby. Evan loves an audience and was in “seventh heaven” when his brother and niece came to watch him ride. His family embraces the importance for Evan to have his own activity - riding at HTR.
It’s been a good thing (riding) for him…physically and emotionally, said his parents. HTR staff and volunteers look forward to many more years of Evan riding.