We have two boys with Duchene Muscular Dystrophy. Finding enjoyable and realistic physical activities for them has been quite stressful. Many activities are just not suitable, and can even cause muscle damage for our children. , We had been through years of agonizing private swimming lessons with little progress or enjoyment. We decided to investigate assisted horseback riding at Shady Hollow. As a parent, it is amazing to find an activity that our boys feel good about doing. It brings smiles to our faces to see their happy faces as they ride their horses. They feel a sense of investment and identity in 'having their own horses' to ride. They never complain about going, and are always in good moods after riding. The staff and volunteer have been welcoming and professional. These may seem like small things to most people. However, given the severity and terminal nature of their diagnosis, knowing that we are able to provide our kids with helpful, joy-provoking experiences is huge to us. We are so grateful for this activity in our boys' lives.
-Lauren and John Fritz
I was asked to write a testimonial on one of my students and my first reaction was how can I choose just one? Do I choose the little girl, who came for her evaluation and was so afraid to let the horse move that she clung to her mom and wouldn’t talk? Now the little girl is riding in a saddle, chatting and smiling the whole time. Do I choose the boy who doesn’t know how to control his temper flares but breaks down and cries when a volunteer gets hurt. Maybe it is the boy in a man’s body that is afraid of falling so bad that we had to do an emergency dismount at his evaluation and didn’t even make it once around the arena but is now not only riding but trotting and going over jumps and waves to his “friends” who helped him as he leaves. Or perhaps the boy who can’t see but loves to have the pretty ladies help him while he entertains them with his knowledge of different languages, or the girl in a women’s body who gets excited and claps her hands when she is ready to ride and has been able to use a walker more instead of a wheelchair because of it. Maybe it’s the toddler who cries through the whole lesson but was able to take his first step after riding a horse for only a short period of time or the boy who gets excited for the first time over a horse and goes from not saying much to speaking loud and clear. Maybe I should choose the boy who was afraid of the horse moving and didn’t want to ride in a saddle because it didn’t have a handle big enough for him to hold on who is now in a saddle and no longer needs to hold anything but the reins. But don’t forget the boy who has been riding for years and yet each time he smiles as if it was his first time just because of who his instructor is. There is no way to choose because each has come a long way from where they were when they started. They have conquered fear, improved balance, increased speech, overcome obstacles and most of all enjoyed the time they spent with their horse. These students share their joy with everyone around them and they give hope when it seems hopeless. I could spend hours talking about the riders at Shady Hollow because I am proud of the accomplishments of each one of them because they have ability not a disability.
Alexis Wanner, age 14, received assisted riding lessons at Shady Hollow in 2012. Alexis thoroughly enjoyed the time spent at Shady Hollow and looked forward to each lesson. It has helped her to gain some self-confidence and allowed her to interact with others as well. She clearly loves the horses and likes to talk about them.
-Theresa Wanner, Mother
Our daughter Susie is 42 years old and very small in stature. She walks with assistance. She is non-verbal and severely mentally retarded. Two years ago she started horseback riding lessons with Shady Hollow Assisted Riding (SHAR). Now her balance is much better. She sits straighter and is able to walk with a walker. She has made incredible progress. When she started riding, she spent a lot of time attempting to take off her helmet and trying to get off the horse. Now she sits up on the horse, sometimes holds the bar and stays on for the half hour lesson. She also seems to enjoy the lesson. The employees and volunteers at SHAR are attuned to Susie and have enabled her to accomplish a great deal in a short time. Susie has shown so much progress that it would be a shame not to continue the program.
-Carolyn and Henry Ansell, Parents of Susie of Ansell
I have to thank Tony, Kathy, all the volunteers, staff and of course all the horses, especially Dooley for helping my grandson Troy, who has ADHD. I have seen a remarkable difference in Troy since he started assisted and transitional riding at Shady Hollow. He is talking more and is calmer than he used to be. He talks to me about how he loves to ride and can't wait to go for his riding lessons every other Wednesday. He has made significant progress in school and he seems to focus more when you talk to him. I would recommend Shady Hollow to anyone who has a child with special needs. All of the horses are well trained, gentle and well cared for.
- Diane Fidler