Young lives limited by disabilities are expanding their horizons at North Shelby School through an innovative therapy program with an unusual tool - a horse.
The mission of the Cleveland County Hearts & Hooves, Inc. Therapeutic Riding Program is to provide therapeutic horseback riding services to children and young adults with disabilities for the purpose of increasing their communication, social, academic, behavior and motor skills, ultimately leading to greater educational achievement and a better quality of life.
About Hearts and Hooves
History: Began in 1998, all volunteer-run and completely funded by donations to build an arena, buy all needed supplies, etc. The program was initially one day/week with a part-time riding instructor. By 2000, we grew to two days/week and by 2002, were able to raise the money to build a covered arena. We were based at the old campus of North Shelby School until 2018, when we moved to the new campus and the new arena. The school system felt that Hearts and Hooves was such an important part of the participants' curriculum that they built us our new facility while building the school. We have also raised money to purchase two equicizers that we can use in the school or for participants unable to ride live horses. We have also expanded to pet therapy with dogs and ponies for ground work and horse handling for participants unable to ride.
Unique in that we are a non-pay-for-service program, any of the students at North Shelby that are physically able and have signed paperwork from their parents may participate at no cost to them. Most therapeutic riding programs are pay-to-ride programs.
How We Are Funded: strictly by donations, fundraising and grants.
We are a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Why We Do What We Do
What is therapeutic riding?
- Therapeutic riding is an equine-assisted activity for the purpose of contributing positively to the cognitive, physical, emotional and social well-being of individuals with special needs. Therapeutic riding provides benefits in the areas of health, education, sport, recreation and leisure.
How Does it Help Participants?
- The movement and unique walking gait of a horse or pony most closely resembles that of a human. Therefore, when a person is riding a horse, the rhythm and motion is therapeutic; the body gains strength and coordination through its adjustment to the horse's gait. Participants also have to practice verbal skills, interactions with both humans and horses and practice shapes, colors and many other cognitive skills while working in the arena.