EAGLE -- A ranch in Eagle has a new program starting that offers free horse therapy to children with special needs.
Saturday was the first day of the what's being called the Horsin' Around program at Little Feather Ranch.
There were two sessions on Saturday, one for kids with Down syndrome, and another for kids with other special needs. One participant with Down syndrome was in the saddle on Saturday.
He doesn't walk yet. He will be four in August, so we are really trying to get him up and walking and his balance. And so, I think this is going to do wonders for him, said mother Lonni Leavitt-Barker. Her son is a 3-year-old program participant named Kean.
Leavitt-Barker says she has been waiting to get her son on a horse forever, and on Saturday, she was thrilled he loved it.
The Little Feather Ranch's barn manager, Candice Hallman, grew up around horses, but as a young child broke her back and was told she would never ride again. But instead, Hallman used horses as part of her therapy.
Through being with horses and through my desire to have that relationship with my horses, I was able to heal and ride again. And because of that experience, I always wanted to give back, said Hallman.
So between giving lessons to kids in the area, including her own children, giving back at the ranch has also included lessons for a special needs group that meets once a week.
They're great to have, and I love seeing their smiles, said Hallman.
We've had kids that haven't talked in a long time, and we didn't know that. The parents would put their child on the horse, and we'd lead them around and they'd say one word, and you'd see the parents crying and have no idea why the parents are crying. And it's because it's the first word they've said in maybe months, said Teri Hallman, owner of the Little Feather Ranch.
But even after seeing success in lessons, the ranch saw a problem, kids and adults with special needs who couldn't come back.
Because they can't afford to come anymore. It breaks our hearts, said Candice Hallman.
That's where the new, free Horsin' Around' program comes from, providing free lessons once a week.
To help the riders with disabilities, there's now this new addition at the ranch. It's thanks to an Eagle Scout, who made this ramp his project.
The Hallman's hope they'll get some other additions from their former students and add some new faces to the program.
It's like falling in love with horses all over again. Every time you get somebody new out, then you realize how lucky you are to be around them. Because they're just amazing, said Teri Hallman.