Owner and PATH Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor Kelly Rickard has been teaching Therapeutic Riding since 2009. Her love for the children is obvious in her teaching style, and having fun on the horse is second only to safety in the lessons. After an initial visit to the barn and discovery of health history, physical function and psycho-social function, goals are set and riding sessions begin. Parental input is always welcomed and new weekly issues are always discussed.
Kelly takes a Heaven’s Gait Therapeutic Riding Team to compete at the Georgia Special Olympics every year, watch the latest video!
My twin 4 year old boys began therapeutic horseback riding lessons with Kelly two years ago. One of my sons has developmental delays from cerebral palsy; and my other little boy, at the time, had speech delays.
As I have watched my boys every week on the back of a horse with Kelly by their side, I can say with confidence that there is no doctor, medicine, or other therapy that could equally replace this in their lives. Within the first two months of riding therapy, my son with speech delays began verbally communicating at home with understandable language and rapidly achieved language proficiency appropriate for his age. It was as if Wesley had never had the delay. My other son with cerebral palsy is weekly working to overcome his physical challenges such as right arm weakness, core weakness, and balance issues while on the back of the horse. With compassion, gentleness, creativity, and energy, Kelly consistently challenges Samuel to strengthen him while also setting reachable goals to boost his confidence and determination. The investment Kelly is making with Samuel has made an invaluable difference in his progress toward walking independently. Seeing my sons smiling as they hold the reins, trot, stand up in the stirrups, and do countless other activities that bring joy, strength, and confidence while on the back of a horse has been an incredible blessing to me as their mom.
Therapeutic horseback riding has made the difference for my little boys.
As a special needs parent, I have prayed for people who would be willing to pour themselves into my daughter’s life. Her struggles are frustratingly persistent and those willing to walk with her have been few and far between. God answered my prayer when Caroline started therapeutic riding with Kelly Rickard. Special needs families see the world through a different window. Kelly appreciates and understands the view.
Caroline has significant challenges resulting from her battle with a pediatric brain tumor. These challenges include many physical and cognitive limitations. Emotional difficulties can be a daily reminder that she walks a difficult path. Therapeutic Riding with Kelly has proven to be far superior to any other therapies we have experienced.
Kelly meets Caroline at her level each day we are at the barn, and understands that her abilities change from one day to the next. Her sweet spirit instinctively knows when to push for more and when to modify therapy if Caroline is having difficulties. The results Caroline has enjoyed as a result of this therapy are astounding. While every medical professional we visit has commented on her physical improvements, it is her renewed faith in herself that is most impressive. Caroline likes being Caroline, thanks to her time with Kelly.
Everyday for months, we would drive by the barn wondering what it was going to be. We thought maybe it was a private owner building the barn of their dreams, or maybe it was going to be an event center, but we were praying that it might be a therapeutic riding center. As parents to two special needs children, we had read and heard many testimonials about how wonderful and beneficial riding was for their children. As the sign went up and it displayed “Heaven’s Gait Therapeutic Riding Center” we were overjoyed.
Our daughters, ages 8 and 10 are both non-verbal, and our youngest does not walk in-dependently. We started riding once a week with the ever so caring and patient Ms. Kelly. The girls were somewhat afraid of the horses, but with each week they soon started to overcome their fear and would be so excited when we came through the gates and approached the barn. After a short few weeks, our daughter that did not walk independently began to take steps on her own. Her physical therapist at school was just thrilled and astonished at her accomplish-ments in such a short amount of time. And she continues to make improvements with each week.
Kelly, Paige and all of the volunteers at Heaven’s Gait are exceptional, loving and caring people and we will be forever grateful to this local Cherokee County establishment. There is simply not enough time or amount of words that I can use to describe the gratitude and love we have for Heaven’s Gait. We hope that they will get to serve the special needs community for many, many years to come.