Horseback Riding For Children with Special Needs

Heather Miner is a program manager with Ride For Joy, a therapeutic horse riding program for individuals with special needs. This program isn’t just an activity — it gives participants joy and a sense of freedom.

“Freedom from whatever it is that’s holding us down — if it’s sadness or physical limitations or developmental limitations, everyone gets to come here and just be free,” Heather shares.

Video Transcript

Ride for Joy. Emmett, Idaho.

Heather Miner: Let’s get your helmet. Okay, does that work? Awesome. Are you ready to ride? Yeah? Okay. Let’s go do it.

Ride for Joy is a therapeutic horse riding program for individuals with special needs.

Heather: I thought that’s what this is. This is freedom. Freedom from whatever it is that’s holding us down. If it’s sadness or physical limitations, or developmental limitations. Everybody gets to come here and just be free.

So, I can tell stories all day about the amazing things that we see, and that’s part of what keep us as staff here.

Heather to riders: And let’s reach up for the sky as tall as we can. We’re going to hold it for ten. Ready, one, two, three.

Heather: The riders that you saw this morning, our little girl. She’s learning to use her words. She had an injury when she was young, and she lost all of her hearing and didn’t learn to speak.

Heather to rider: Say ‘walk.’ You say, ‘Walk.’

Rider: Walk.

Heather to rider: Good.

Heather: Watching her go from complete sign to now she’s saying “walk on,” and “whoa,” and she’s singing, and she’s goofing around. That’s huge.

Through horseback riding, riders have the space to grow and realize their potential.

Girl: Walk on.

Heather to girl: There we go. Walk on, on, on.

Heather: Our other rider, he has a disease that’s degenerative. We’ve gotten to a point where he’s limited in his speech and his movement, but he smiles. And so, we know he’s still having a good time. He loves to trot.

Heather to Michael: Really good, Michael. I like how tall you’re sitting.

Heather: We have quite a few riders who are on autism spectrum.

Heather to rider: Hey, you ready? Walk on, walk on. Good job. Yeah.

Heather: Her mom told me at home she pretty much stays in her room and doesn’t talk to anybody, but at the barn, she is an absolute social butterfly. They drive three hours to get here, one way, because her mom gets to have her daughter back for a little while.
And so, on the way home, her daughter talks to her and they chat for a little while, and then she slowly kind of slips back into her isolation. But mom gets to have her daughter for a little while.

Ride for Joy gives these riders freedom from anything that’s holding them back.

Heather: We love it, and we get to tell these stories, and we get to share in those moments with these riders. I’m a better person day to day because of what I do here, and I know that I’m helping others fulfill their potential and grow into who they can be also.

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