BLOOMINGDALE, Ga. (WTOC) - When Hoofs 4 Healing had to vacate its long-time home six months ago, it was uncertain whether the therapeutic horseback riding program would be able to continue.
Emotions were evident in a lot of ways earlier this week when the organization reunited, reorganized, and returned to a whole new reality.
“It’s beyond exciting. My son, I told him this morning, and he screamed and hollered for about 30 minutes,” said Tamera Ramsey, whose son participates in Hoofs 4 Healing.
Zachary Hadden was far from alone in his excitement for the return of the therapeutic horseback riding program that has brought comfort and relief to individuals with mental, physical, and social disabilities since 1999. It’s faced challenges of its own though, in recent years.
“I guess, the last three years, we’ve had two hurricanes and a fire, then we found out were were going to have to leave our other farm,” said Karrie Henry, Founder, Hoofs 4 Healing.
Karrie Henry gave serious thought to disbanding the program when her previous Garden City location was being sold - until a meeting and quick bonding with Karen and Ken Stewart gave Hoofs 4 Healing a second chance.
“Actually, my dad is a farrier, Gerald Dubberly, and we were looking for a horse for my granddaughters, so he said, 'go see Karrie, she’s got all kinds of horses,” said Karen Stewart, Director, Hoofs 4 Healing. “We met and kind of fell in love, and she wants to be a path instructor, and it was just kind of like, this is awesome.”
The Stewarts agreed to move Hoofs 4 Healing to their 11-acre farm in Bloomingdale and take over as directors of the program that provides an innate soothing connection between horse and rider.
On Tuesday, they welcomed riders for the first time.
“Wow, just to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together is a blessing. It’s exciting, and the kids get excited.”
“That’s the beauty of Ken and Karen. They’ve been horse people for a long time, and, I mean, where else? I’m so lucky.”
So are the riders like Zachary, who still will have a place to go to feel the freedom they have always gotten in the saddle.
“He’s non-verbal, but you can see, he can talk to the world when he’s on top of that horse. He really can. It’s just amazing.”
“It’s the smile from the kids. I mean, they get so excited. They can’t play soccer, baseball or basketball, but they can bond one on one with the horses, and just to feel the horse’s breath on their hand or on their cheek, just brings so much joy to Ken and I both.”
“Oh, I’m ecstatic. I am so excited that it’s back out here and up and running and being able to let him express himself.”
Karrie Henry will remain as involved as ever in the program she started, but has turned over leadership of Hoofs 4 Healing to the Stewarts.