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In June of 2022, HRET was privileged to have David join us in our

therapeutic riding program.


David joined his family, first through the foster system and then adoption,

at the age of 9 1/2. When he joined them, they were told he had severe autism,

a severe intellectual disability and a profound bilateral hearing loss.


He suffered language and sensory deprivation and had no way to communicate other than by hurting himself or other people. 


​In spite of his disabilities and difficulty communicating, David has been participating in the HRET program and has grown in so many areas:

  • He has learned to follow 5 -7 step directions (signed by his mom  who is his ASL interpreter) - a big improvement from his 1 - 2 step directions at school

  • He grooms his horse without assistance

  • He has quickly learned the reining commands needed to navigate his horse through complex patterns 

David began competing in the Special Olympics with HRET in 2022. 


In both years, 2022 and 2023, David has come home with medals in each of his events!


It was during the 2023 Olympics that his mom and teachers at HRET noticed that David was a bit "off."


At his next lesson after the Olympics David let everyone know what was bothering him that day.


Typically his mom was his sidewalker and interpreter for his lessons, but as they pulled up and she began to get out of the car, David signed to her that she was "finished" and to "stay."


At first his mom didn't understand what he was trying to tell her, but in a moment  she will never forget, David showed her the "most expressive communication" they had ever seen from him.

When his mom asked David why he was telling her not to come in and help him like she always had, David signed "David not baby. Evie baby!!"


This spontaneous language was a first for David!! His mom started putting the pieces together. Evie is David's younger sister and she competed in the Special Olympics in 2023 with mom as her sidewalker, too. 


When his mom asked David if he felt like a baby at the Special Olympics because he had the same help Evie did, he had a huge smile and signed "YES!"


David's mom promised him that they would figure out a plan so that he could ride in the next Olympics all by himself. This past winter, David had the chance to take some private lessons and that is exactly what they worked on.

David W

Emma, David's instructor, Gracie, David's horse, along with

David and his mom were able to accomplish the goal of riding

independently by the THIRD lesson and he is well on his

way to riding independently in the 2024 Special Olympics.


David's parents were told that he would never communicate,

but because of his passionate connection with Gracie, he was

able to communicate his dream and is working towards

accomplishing his first-ever long-term goal.


David now knows HE has the power to set HIS own goals

and to "change the course of what others expect of him."


Through David's experiences at HRET, he is able to accomplish

more than anyone ever knew was possible!


HRET Volunteer

"This program has changed my life in even more ways than I can realize myself. I started mainly because of my passion for horses, but it is way more than that now. The smile on your rider's face when they know that they accomplished something is the reason I am there almost every day! I am so thankful that I came across this program, because I feel like it has done more for me than I can ever give back to our students." 

Dan Hennigan


"The kids enjoy coming here every day. We've seen improvement in following multi-step directions. Over the years we've seen students grow with their ability to work with the horses."

Dan & Jodi Merrion


"She'd ride every day if she could. We've noticed big improvements physically with her ability to really strengthen her core. She has a lot of pride and ownership of the sport that she's in."




“My daughter Isabelle loves riding. It gives her a sense of freedom and responsibility that she has not been able to experience until now. She also enjoys the company of the therapists who make therapy feel like fun. The smile it brings to her face is priceless.”

-Jodi (Isabelle's Mother)

Meghan and AnnMarie.JPG


HRET Volunteer

"I am so grateful to coach Marlene and the amazing team of volunteers at Holistic Riding. Through your program, Meaghan is not only learning to ride but she has gained self-confidence, is building self-esteem and improving her social skills. But most of all she is having fun! Meaghan calls the barn her 'happy place'. She cannot wait to ride each week. Because I am able to volunteer in the program, I am able to share this experience with her!"

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