Located on a 14-acre property, ManeGait was founded in 2007 by Bill and Priscilla Darling. It is now run by a 16-member board of directors. The mission is to help people of all ages through the use of horsemanship and equine therapy, ManeGait Executive Director Patricia Nelson said.
Many of the riders participate in multiple programs, Nelson said.
“Our riders have all sorts of different challenges,” she said. “They can be physical challenges, cognitive challenges, emotional challenges [or] learning differences.”
Depending on a rider’s challenge, the instructors will add in different riding and learning styles. Instructors are certified through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International.
“Our riders, their families and volunteers celebrate even the smallest achievement in the arena, and it is wonderful to be a part of those achievements,” ManeGait instructor and program director Sarah Dobbins said in an email.
One reason therapeutic riding works is because a horse’s gait is similar to a person’s walk, Nelson said. The constant movement of the horse under the rider influences the rider’s body to move in the same way, which develops core strength, balance, fine motor skills, concentration and cognitive thinking over time.
All of ManeGait’s horses are put through an extensive vetting process before they can be accepted into the program, Nelson said. Horses are purchased or leased, and can be accepted through donations.
“We have a pretty rigid criteria of what we’re looking for and what we accept in a horse,” Nelson said. “They have to ... tolerate all sorts of behavior and people around them.”