ManeGait

Riders gain confidence, skills through horses



For one young girl, autism and ADHD were a daily battle. She struggled in social situations and found it difficult to communicate her feelings to her family, leading to regular emotional meltdowns.



After taking part in a special program developed at ManeGait Therapeutic Horsemanship, however, the child has a different daily life experience. She speaks in full sentences, expresses emotion and is able to be in social situation with her family.



Such life-changing experiences are what the staff of ManeGait has strived for throughout its six years in operation at its facility just north of US 380 on Custer Road, said Marketing and Development Manager Heather Guarnera, whose first experience with ManeGait was as a volunteer.



"ManeGait, if you talk to a lot of our families, it's a place of community," she said. "It's a place where they can come and no one is looking at them, no one is judging them. [Parents] can talk with other parents in a very safe environment."



Founders Bill and Priscilla Darling made the 18-acre facility on Custer Road in McKinney possible. The program has grown from four weekly riders in 2008 to more than 135 weekly riders in 2014.



The 21 program horses range widely in breed, size and color, but all have three common traits: calm, quiet and practically "bomb-proof," Guarnera said. Each horse is purchased specifically for the program through donors.



The program serves riders from 58 cities in Collin, Denton, Grayson, Dallas and Rockwall counties.



In addition to eight full-time and nine part-time staff members, volunteers—about 350 per week—ensure the program is able to accomplish its mission: helping children and adults with disabilities move beyond their boundaries through the healing power of horses, Guarnera said.



"It's a place where not just the rider heals," Guarnera said. "I always say it's a healing place for the family. Everybody receives a benefit. As a volunteer I can tell you that I received way more than I ever gave. These families and these kids are the happiest, most positive people you will interact with, and you walk away a better person."



ManeGait has a waiting list for riders with disabilities such as autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. Therapeutic riding lessons with specially trained instructors focus on improving areas including: balance, endurance and muscle strength; weak brain area activation; confidence and social skills; and range of motion and circulation.



Instruction takes place in both an outdoor and a covered arena and the facility is outfitted with special ramps and a motorized lift for riders to be able to mount the horses more easily.



ManeGait is a Path Premier accredited facility—the highest accreditation a therapeutic riding facility can achieve through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International.



The nonprofit continues to raise the bar with new programs, Guarnera said. GaitWay to the Brain, a program developed by a ManeGait instructor, focuses on taking the rider through a series of activities to help them focus and calm down before taking a riding session. The program is now being presented by ManeGait on a national level.



Riders never pay more than 15 percent of what it costs ManeGait to provide lessons, Guarnera said. The nonprofit is at lesson capacity because of its 98-percent rider retention rate.



"For us to be able to continue to grow our program, it's a matter of funding," she said.



Fundraising and volunteers



Gala at the 'Gait



Oct. 4 at ManeGait



Individuals and companies gather for a western-themed evening that includes a "taste of" style dinner from multiple local chefs, silent and live auctions, live music and dancing. Tickets are $250.



Gaitapalooza



Nov. 1 at ManeGait



Families flock to ManeGait's most popular fundraising event, a carnival featuring games, booths and fare from food trucks, plus a ride-a-thon trail ride for ManeGait riders. Tickets are $5.



Volunteers



More than 350 volunteers per week are needed at ManeGait and not all require being directly involved with horses. Volunteer opportunities include lesson volunteers, roustabouts, horse schoolers, fundraising and event team members as well as administration duties.

By Krista Wadsworth
Krista Wadsworth is the managing editor for Community Impact Newspaper’s DFW editions. After serving as a reporter and then managing editor for a daily newspaper in Northeast Texas, she moved to the DFW area and joined CI as an editor for the Frisco edition, which she helped to launch. Krista was named the DFW managing editor in 2015 and oversees the editorial content for the Frisco, Plano, McKinney, Grapevine|Colleyville|Southlake and Lewisville|Flower Mound|Highland Village editions.


MOST RECENT

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced March 2 that mask mandates and business capacity restrictions will be lifted in Texas. (Courtesy Office of the Texas Governor)
Gov. Greg Abbott lifts statewide mask mandate, business restrictions in Texas

With vaccine distribution increasing, Gov. Greg Abbott said "people and businesses don't need the state telling them how to operate." Some local officials are pushing back, saying the relaxed restrictions are coming too early.

Eight|11 Place is located in downtown Frisco. (Courtesy Eight|11 Place)
After brief renovation closure, Eight|11 Place in Frisco reopens

The wine bar and kitchen is known for its pizza, wine and patio in historic downtown Frisco.

Chido Taco Lounge aims to provide "killer tacos" to Frisco and Dallas-Fort Worth diners. (Courtesy Chido Taco Lounge)
Dinner party enthusiast to provide Frisco diners with 'killer tacos'

Chido Taco Lounge is opening its doors in west Frisco.

Frisco ISD swimmers competed in a districtwide meet inside the Bruce Eubanks Natatorium in January. (Courtesy Frisco ISD)
Frisco ISD to replaster natatorium for almost $398,000

Frisco ISD plans to begin replastering the Bruce Eubanks Natatorium starting March 8.

Frisco ISD Assistant Maintenance Director Benny Medcalf (left) and HVAC Supervisor Brent Pauling (right) work to repair a burst water line at Clark Middle School. The pipe, a component of the school’s heating and cooling system, burst during February's frigid temperatures while district campuses were disconnected from the state power grid. (Courtesy Frisco ISD)
Frisco ISD maintenance workers to receive premium pay for storm-related work

Frisco ISD’s board of trustees voted to give time and a half pay to employees who worked onsite during last month’s winter storms.

Vial of COVID-19 vaccine
Frisco vaccine site pulling from Collin County waitlist

The city of Frisco’s COVID-19 vaccine site at Stonebriar Centre mall has begun pulling from the Collin County vaccine waitlist for appointments.

A crew breaking ground on a construction site.
Medical City Frisco breaks ground on new patient tower

Work has officially begun on a new patient tower at Medical City Frisco.

Scooter's Coffee is now open at 1451 E. Buckingham Road in Richardson. (William C. Wadsack/Community Impact Newspaper)
Scooter's Coffee opens in Richardson; Hawaiian Bros restaurant coming to Fort Worth and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Harvest Hall officially opened Feb. 6 in Grapevine as part of the Grapevine Main development. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harvest Hall now open in Grapevine, new dining options in Fort Worth and more DFW news from February

Here are some of the top stories from the past month from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

digital rendering of virus
Collin County Judge Chris Hill rescinds COVID-19 disaster declaration

Collin County’s declaration of local disaster in response to COVID-19 was rescinded Feb. 26 by Judge Chris Hill.

At its peak of power loss, the city had roughly 50,000 homes with interrupted power, many of which had prolonged outages, Plano City Manager Mark Israelson said. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
Plano faces long-term impacts from storm; Collin County vaccine hubs resume service and more DFW-area news

Read the top business and community news from this week from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.