Rider Stories



Has increased balance and leg strength

Dani suffered a spinal cord injury 5 years ago. As a quadriplegic, she has limited strength in her core and paralysis through much of her body. Sitting in a wheelchair all day causes severe back and spine pain, while the stagnancy can also make her tense. Riding at Hearts, she’s been able to tackle physical as well as emotional challenges. As she focuses intently on balancing while riding her horse, her back pain dissolves and she is able to overcome fears and anxieties associated with her condition.

“What I like best about Hearts is Devon, my trainer. She is willing to push me to try new things. But she can also read how I feel before I say anything so I really trust her. I love my volunteer side walkers Duane, Shannon and Yvonne, to name a few. I know they cared about me. We all looked forward to seeing each other every week. I also appreciated that so many volunteers were able to work with me and perhaps gain some insight into the life of differently abled people in general. I learned to love the horses and they definitely knew to be gentle with me. They were so sweet. Buddy is very smart and I was thrilled that he listened when I told him to ‘walk on’.”

“The highlight of my summer was trotting for the first time on Buddy and a second time on Mondo. I never thought this would be possible with my poor balance and leg spasms, but Devon and my volunteers believed in me. Trotting seems easy enough to most people, but for me it was exhilarating and empowering!”


Now has focus & can follow directions

Keaton was just four years old when he began therapeutic riding at Hearts. Four years later, the Slay family says “Hearts is truly a blessing. Over the years we have come to appreciate the kind, caring, and consistent staff.” Keaton, who has Down syndrome, rides once a week. The Slays brought Keaton to Hearts to provide him with a special activity of his own that would bring him enjoyment and confidence.

Keaton’s weekly sessions have resulted in improved balance, coordination, listening, and ability to follow directions. In addition, he has developed a true respect and great affection for horses. Riding is one of Keaton’s favorite activities.

His mom, dad, and aide, Claudia, add, “Thank you to the many community volunteers who support this program: the staff, financial sponsors, and those who have donated their horses to share with these special children. We are truly grateful.”

Has more confidence & physical strength

Kristin is an energetic, kind and warm girl who is hearing impaired. In her group lesson, she is a teacher as well as a student – she teaches us new signs each day related to what we are doing in the lesson. She was awarded “Rider of the Year 2006,” for her  commitment to always giving her best during every ride. Kristin came to Hearts to have fun as well as improve her balance and coordination. When she first started lessons, she had a leader and sidewalkers to assist. She now rides independently around the ring at the walk and trots like a star.

Kristin’s mom, Kathy, says, “Kristin gets so much enjoyment and satisfaction from riding. I appreciate seeing the happiness and excitement she feels coming to Hearts every week.” Kristin says, “I like the games we play. I like the trail rides the best.”