Horses - and loving caretakers - provide healing and calm


Photos by Cynthia Price

by Cynthia Price

It is clear from a visit to Heal with a Horse’s new property out on Hilton Park Road that the volunteers who come to help the young riders are reaping a number of benefits, including the soothing presence of the majestic animals from which it takes its name.

Kimberly Patton founded the organization in 2010, and she says she too derives benefits. “Sometimes when I come here I’m feeling sort of restless, but a little while with the horses and that goes away.”

And volunteer Ike Villalpando (featured in a previous Examiner issue when he organized a 9/11 commemoration in 2017) says, “As soon as I get out here, I can feel myself calming down.”

Started by Patton upon the cancer death of her boyfriend, who as a trainer shared her love of horses, Heal with a Horse has a mission to “enhance the quality of life of chronically ill and special needs children through equine assisted therapy.”

Certainly it is those children who have benefited most from the weekly riding sessions. Riding horses helps children with disabilities in both  fine and gross motor skills as well as core body strength and balance. It helps with social skills and promotes feelings of belonging and bonding with the beautiful horses. For those with serious illnesses, the joy of riding may make them forget about being sick for a while.

The young equestrians are also enlisted in helping with such chores as pushing rolls of hay (see photos), which helps them feel a part of the process and teaches them to be responsible.

On the website (, one mother says about her son, ““Heal with a Horse has had a tremendous impact on his life!  The bond is like none I have ever seen.  He has grown so much with the help of all the horses and volunteers.”

And Patton herself tells the touching story of a young boy on the autism spectrum who was mute when he first came to ride. After about seven months he said his first word — to his horse.

“I don’t really do anything,”she adds, visibly moved. “It’s the horses.”

Patton, who says that in the past seven years most of the riders have come from referrals from HealthWest and word of mouth, is excited about the potential she sees now that they have their own stables. They are reaching out to the courts, and hope to qualify to get referrals from the Department of Health and Human Services.

This will involve having a social worker onsite, someone who has already been hired but is finishing up her schooling. Once Bailey TeBeau gets out of school in May, Heal with a Horse will be open all week long.

The organization also hosts workshops with well-known clinicians. Kristen Yowtz (see photo), who studied at Meredith Manor International Equestrian Center, also gives lessons for a small fee.

Heal with a Horse plans to hold an Open House on June 9; watch these pages for more details.