Watching miracles happen at Haven Horse Ranch

By Cheyanne Wingo |

I will never forget my first encounter with the therapy program at Haven Horse Ranch. It was a hot spring day in 2013 and I was sitting in the office having a conversation with President and Operator Ric Lehman, with whom I have been close with since I began riding and volunteering in 2001. I hadn’t seen him in quite some time, so he was asking me all about my life as a busy college student and filling me in on the recent happenings of the ranch, as well as the progress they had been making with their therapy students. He was telling me about a little boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder that was going through their therapy program.

When he first came to the Ranch, he couldn’t speak or look anyone in the eye and could only walk with assistance from a walker. A few minutes later, that same boy came walking up and said, “Bye Mr. Ric!” as he jumped up and gave Ric a big hug. Never in my life have tears welled up in my eyes so quickly. The happiness in both of their hearts was almost tangible, and I have never been more sure of the efficacy of the program than in that moment. This one little boy is not the only success story, however. There are dozens of stories just like his. One participant in the program even improved to the extent that he is now considered “non-autistic.”

Through the use of the SpiritHorse International program, Haven Horse provides therapeutic horseback riding completely free of charge to children with disabilities, children who are victims of violence and at risk youth. Haven Horse Ranch is unique in the fact that it provides equine assisted healthcare. Most equine therapy programs use hippotherapy, a form of physical, occupational and speech therapy in which therapists use the movements of horses to improve upon motor and sensory skills. In contrast, the technique Haven Horse Ranch employs uses the horse itself to foster relationship building and problem solving guided by a therapist. “While it may seem like only a slight distinction between the two types of therapy, it makes a world of difference to the kids. Children who often distrust adult therapists are much more receptive to the gentle spirit of the horses,” said Lehman.

This life-changing program is provided at no cost to the therapy students and is instead funded exclusively by donations. The ranch hosts several annual events in order to fund their therapy program, one of which is the Miracle Maker’s Dance. The event will be held at the Cascades Ballroom in World Golf Village on April 25th at 6:30 p.m. This year the Miracle Makers dance will travel back in time with a Roaring 20s theme. Attendees are invited to dress in their finest period costumes while they dance to smooth jazz, and drink signature prohibition era cocktails at a party that would give Gatsby a run for his money. The main event of the night will be an auction featuring an African safari, a hot air balloon ride, a trip to the Atlantis resort, gift certificates to the best restaurants in town and much, much more.

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