Give Equine Therapy to Children with Disabilities

by The Red Thread Promise
Helmet On, Ready To Go
Helmet On, Ready To Go

Sometimes we are lucky enough to see the world tilt a little toward the good.  Last night was one of those times. 

There was Kyle, riding his horse, Dallas.  Alongside were his therapist and his horse handler.  He’d just completed a matching and sequencing exercise, concentrating intensely. 

He urged the horse forward, using his muscles, and Dallas began to trot gently.  Suddenly Kyle was laughing, filling the entire indoor arena with the sound. 

“This is music to my ears,” said Kelli, Kyle’s mom. 

Kyle completed one six-week session of hippotherapy over the summer.  Amy, his therapist, reports that his core strength increased and continues to increase, his balance has improved, and toward the end of the six weeks, she saw (and heard) him vocalizing much more.  And at this first night of fall session, he picked right up where he left off, retaining the strength and skill he’d gained.

We at Jacob’s Fund love hippotherapy, because we see the results. 

But what we love more than anything is the change that happens to families when their child is at last able to communicate his needs, or to express the  pleasure she feels when playing with her brothers and sisters.  When a child that could not stand alone walks, that is a miracle.  When a little one that could not talk whispers “Good night, Mommy” families’ lives are transformed.  When a child gets out of the car at the carpool drop off and is greeted by another child and they walk away hand in hand, an inexorably heavy weight is lifted off a parent’s heart.

We’re thrilled, as we know our GlobalGiving donors are, that Kyle is growing in strength and capability.  We eagerly look forward, as you do, to seeing him reach new goals.

But we’re ecstatic that, last evening, as the sun began to set over the rolling hills and farmlands that surround Hilltop Equestrian Center, Kyle, not waiting for his parents to hold his hand, hurried into the barn to find his horse and begin riding.


Colorful Therapy
Colorful Therapy
Kyle and Kelli
Kyle and Kelli

Glenna, Jacob’s Fund Director, and Sonya, TRTP VP, drove to a quiet Cincinnati suburb a few weeks ago to meet Kyle, the newest recipient of a Jacob’s Fund ridership (aka a hippotherapy scholarship). Kyle has been diagnosed with three challenging conditions: Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), epilepsy and hypotonia. At this point he is non-verbal and not toilet trained. His life—and that of his family—is a daily challenge.

We were deeply impressed as Kelli (Kyle's mother) shared her tireless work seeking out specialists, treatments and any form of help that she and her husband can provide for Kyle. A grant from the Cincinnati Inquirer provided a special changing table and stroller for him. Another grant secured a supply of Kyle's special diapers; due to his age and size, he falls into a gap between readily available toddler and adult diapers. He is also on a Ketogenic diet, drinking special formula to help his body produce ketones which help to suppress the epilepsy, thus decreasing the volume of seizure medications he has to take.

One of the family's biggest challenges is communication with their 7-year-old son. Kyle—who is currently non-verbal—is being evaluated to identify a form of communication that will be successful for both him and his parents. The family has explored ASL (American Sign Language), which requires fine motor skills that he hasn't yet mastered, and PECS (picture exchange communication) with little success. Not being able to understand one another is a source of frustration not only for Kyle, but also his parents, sister, teachers and anyone else he comes in contact with on a daily basis.

This is one of the main reasons The Red Thread Promise has offered Kyle a hippotherapy ridership. We have observed such profound progress with non-verbal children receiving therapy on the back of a horse! Hippotherapy has been documented time and time again to be an aid to opening lines of communication previously undiscovered. We are all extremely hopeful that this doctor-prescribed therapy will help Kyle develop his own form of communication, opening many doors into this special child's world.

This July, Kyle will begin hippotherapy at nearby Hilltop Equestrian Center. He and his family have already completed the pre-screening process and are anxious to begin his treatment in Hilltop's summer session. During their tour of the facility, Kyle impressed everyone with his acceptance of the horses, showing little fear or apprehension. We hope that these characteristics will provide Kyle's smooth transition from the ground to horseback where therapy begins.

After Kyle has been in therapy for a few consecutive weeks, the Jacob's Fund team will visit Hilltop to observe Kyle's riding, speak with his therapists and provide an update. Thank you so much for helping us put this boy in the saddle! 


Kyle and his mother, Kelli
Kyle and his mother, Kelli

Have you ever met someone new, but, after spending a short period of time with them, felt like you’ve known them much longer? That was the experience of the Jacob’s Fund team when they met little Kyle and his family two short weeks ago.

Glenna, Jacob’s Fund Director, and Sonya, TRTP VP, drove to a quiet Cincinnati suburb to meet the newest recipient of a Jacob’s Fund ridership (aka a hippotherapy scholarship). The pair was warmly greeted by Kelli, Kyle’s mom, and welcomed into a very neat, organized home. After learning that both a 6- and 7-year-old live in this space, the ladies were amazed at how tidy everything was! Kelli was quick to explain that keeping a neat home creates a peaceful space for both her son and herself. 

We asked her to explain and tell us more about Kyle. Beaming with love, she proceeded to help us get to know her unique little boy, all the while keeping a watchful eye on her children.

Kyle is an adorable blond haired, blue eyed, 7-year-old with a radiant smile and infectious laugh. He adores music, especially catchy gospel songs performed by the young people on one of his favorite videos. He recognizes and can point to all of his ABCs and 123s as well as his colors, small victories for children much younger than him, but colossal milestones for someone with his challenges. 

At an early age, Kyle was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), which is characterized by delays in the development of socialization and communication skills, typically noted before 3 years of age. Symptoms may include problems using and understanding language; difficulty relating to people, objects, and events; unusual play with toys and other objects; difficulty with changes in routine or familiar surroundings, and repetitive body movements or behavior patterns. Unusual responses to sensory information, such as loud noises and lights, are also common. (Excerpts from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) 

Kyle also has epilepsy, a seizure disorder that affects the nervous system and is characterized by two or more seizures from an unknown cause. (Paraphrased from In addition, he has hypotonia—low muscle tone—which creates balance issues causing him to fall easily.

Upon understanding that this little man has these conditions, we instantly understood the need to maintain a tidy house. Not only is the house kept in a way to maximize Kyle’s safety, but to honor his internal need for order. He likes chairs to be pushed in, doors to be closed and no clutter. It was evident to us that his parents care deeply about preparing and maintaining the best possible environment for their eldest child.

Now that you’ve met Kyle, maybe you feel like you know him too. Stay tuned for our next report that explains why Jacob’s Fund has taken an interest in this exceptional child!


Glenna greeting Amazzing, a therapy horse
Glenna greeting Amazzing, a therapy horse

That’s right.You read the title correctly. 

The Red Thread Promise is standing on the threshold of a brand-new relationship with a PATH certified hippotherapy center in southwestern Ohio! While we will continue working with the kids and staff of McKenna Farms, our long-term partners in Georgia, The Red Thread team has longed to provide hippotherapy and therapeutic riding to children in other areas. Now, we are making that dream a reality.

Recently, Glenna (Jacob’s Fund Director) and Sonya (TRTP VP) traveled to Hilltop Equestrian Center in beautiful rural Ohio. Less than an hour’s drive from many of the more populated cities and towns in the area, Hilltop is staffed with AHA certified therapists who are ready to work with our children. During our conversation, we quickly established that both organizations share many common goals and basic principles, agreeing that:

  • Hippotherapy and therapeutic riding opens the door to new worlds for youngsters with disabilities; and
  • A family’s economic circumstance should not prevent a child from receiving therapy. 

It was the start of something beautiful.

 Jim Hazelwood, Program and Events Director at Hilltop, and Amy Day, Master of Physical Therapy, guided the tour through the facility as we discussed practical matters such as: 

  • how often hippotherapy is offered
  • how many children receive therapy
  • how many therapy horses are in use
  • how long sessions are and associated costs
  • their therapist qualifications; and
  • the certifications of the facility.

As we’ve mentioned in previous reports, providing services like this goes far beyond the technical aspects. We were eager to hear what Hilltop does for families as a whole. With a goal of enriching all family members’ lives, a pre-screening consultation is required for entry into any Hilltop program so that staff can get to know not only the child receiving therapy, but the family also. Hilltop also provides numerous programs for other family members including adults, teens and typically developing siblings in addition to therapy services. 

When we left, Hilltop welcomed The Red Thread Promise to visit, observe, take photos and interview staff, children, and families anytime. This was music to our ears as we do our best to share the progress of the children we support with you. In an upcoming post, you’ll meet Kyle, the first child Jacob's Fund will be sponsoring at Hilltop. Stay tuned and be prepared to fall in love with this precious little boy!

One wing of Hilltop
One wing of Hilltop's stables
Glenna and the Hilltop staff
Glenna and the Hilltop staff
Riders in the indoor arena
Riders in the indoor arena
A little rider during hippotherapy
A little rider during hippotherapy

Only a week ago we honored our mothers on Mother’s Day.  Since Jacob’s Fund’s work not only affects the children receiving therapy, but also their entire families, we thought you’d like to from a Jacob’s Fund mom...

Cameron and Landon received riderships from Jacob’s Fund earlier this year so they could continue their hippotherapy at McKenna Farms.  Here’s what their mother, Melissa, has to say about their progress:

Cameron is not the same boy he was last year.  His speech defect was downgraded from severe to mild in all areas. 

What a joy it is to be able to have a conversation with my son!  I have gotten to know him on a much deeper level since his therapy began.  Now he can tell me “I like that” or “I don’t like that.”  He no longer screams bloody murder when we brush his teeth or hair or try to put lotion on him.  He does these things on his own!

At the beginning of August 2012 he wouldn’t even attempt to play with other children.  If you could only see him now!  I have to make Cameron leave when he is interacting with other kids.  We rejoice over the tiniest victories because each one demonstrates the progress he is making...

Landon has also made great strides.  He can communicate basic needs now.  His teacher even videotaped him singing with his class the other day.  We recently took him back to a developmental pediatrician who prescribed new medication for him.  Within a short time he was playing with toys again for the first time in a week.  Small victories!

I thank God for lighting my path last year.  At a friend’s barb-b-que I met Shelly who told me of McKenna Farms and hippotherapy.  I met Jesse, director of the farm, who introduced me to Jacob’s Fun].  Through the help of all these angels, we are getting to see our real sons shine through.

Please continue to pray for our family.  Every day is a new journey and we take leaps of faith along . . .  but I know God will supply our needs.  He has thus far.  Thank you so much for the opportunities Jacob’s Fund has given my children, for helping to restore a broken family who is enjoying getting to know their very special sons.

We will continue to keep you updated on the twins’ progress.   Your support continues to help make this possible through either one-time or continuing contributions to “Give Hippotherapy to Children with Disabilities” on Global Giving.



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Organization Information

The Red Thread Promise

Location: Havertown, PA - USA
Website: http:/​/​​
The Red Thread Promise
Project Leader:
Kathy Korge Albergate
Havertown, PA United States

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