One miracle that the workers at Horses with Heart talk about involves a 7-year-old boy who stopped talking after his mother died in a car accident. He wouldn’t speak a word. After one week, he was whispering to the horse to “move on.” After six weeks, he was talking to people.
Another miracle, according to the staff, happened to a military veteran with PTSD. He said the horse made him calmer than anything else.
Horses with Heart in Chino Valley is a therapeutic riding center that works with anyone from 4 years old to more than 80 years old, but they specialize in working with children with special needs and military veterans.
Jan Grise, riding director for Horses with Heart, said they don’t charge the veterans. “It’s our way of thanking them for their service.”
Horses with Heart has several other programs, ranging from competitions for the more advanced riders to their mini program, which brings mini ponies to nursing homes and schools.
Horses with Heart has 17 horses and only has room for one more. Grise says they would like to expand if they could get more land.
Horses with Heart has been going for 30 years, but has been on this property since 2010. It was created by a special needs teacher in Chino Valley, who moved to Dewey for a few years and then returned to Chino Valley.
The organization recently added a thrift store, Classy Pony Resale Boutique, with all the proceeds going to the non-profit. Horses with Heart brings in funding through grants, donations and fundraisers. The next fundraiser is Sequins and Saddles, Saturday, Nov. 12, at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Horses with Heart, which charges for lessons, has five staff members, some part- timer workers and 140 volunteers. The organization averages about 75 riders per week. Horses with Heart is a PATH International Premier Accredited Center.
Grise said the best part of working at Horses with Heart is the smiles and the growth they see in the riders. “Our volunteers and horses are the heart of the program. They make it all possible,” she said.
Trudy Chapman-Radley, one of the founders of Horses with Heart, said it has been great watching the program grow for the past 30 years. “It’s awesome watching the passion that people have for Horses with Heart,” she said.
Chapman-Radley said horses naturally calm people because the horses have the same gate or movement as people. “The horses don’t judge anybody.”
Some of the children riders she has trained are adults now. Horses with Heart board member Will Towne’s daughter is one of those who is now grown. He said when his daughter was riding, she was more comfortable here than anyplace else.
Horses with Heart was in the spotlight at a Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce mixer Sept. 14, with more than 100 people attending the event. The Chino Valley Lioness Club donated $300 during the event.
Marcia Gagnon, an instructor with Horses with Heart, said horses help youngsters with cognitive needs, but she also has a program for those 55 and older. “Horses are wonderful for kids because it helps them with motivation for their brain,” she said, adding that the kids often cuddle with horses and the horses return the kindness. QCBN
By Stan Bindell, QCBN