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: Begun in 1998, the program was all volunteer run and completely funded by donations to build an arena, buy all needed supplies and equipment. The program was initially one day/week with a part-time riding instructor. By 2000, it grew to two days/week and by 2002, was able to raise the money to build a covered arena. It was based at the old campus of North Shelby School until 2018, when it 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 the new facility while building the school. Money had also been raised to purchase two equicizers that can be used in the school or for participants unable to ride live equines. The program has also expanded to pet therapy with dogs and miniature horses. Ground work and equine handling is offered for participants unable to ride due to contraindications.
The program is unique in that it is a non-pay-for service program, any of the students at North Shelby School that are physically able and have signed paperwork from their parent/guardian may participate at no cost to them. Most therapeutic riding programs are pay to ride programs and have a facility to house their program equines. Our program is also unique in the fact that our equines are volunteers or leased and are housed with volunteers (typically the owner). Our equines are trailered to North Shelby School from where the program is conducted. All equines engaged in our program are thoroughly tested and evaluated and undergo a physical inspection by our Safety Committee and veterinarian prior to becoming accepted into the program to ensure they are able to best serve our participants’ needs.
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 an equine most closely resembles that of a human. Therefore, when a person is riding, the rhythm and motion is therapeutic; the body gains strength and coordination through its adjustment to the equine’s gait. Participants also have to practice verbal skills, interactions with both humans and equines and practice shapes, colors and many other cognitive skills while working in the arena.