Lake Texoma

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Divine Equine Therapeutic Riding Center

by
Lumini Services
Kendall Davis is well-versed in the English language. She has 20 years experience as a published author and writing for clients. Her published works include historical articles in museums, magazines, newspaper articles, columns, content marketing, advertising copy, blogging, and academic papers. Kendall also makes her way in the literary world as a copyeditor. Writing about history is her first love interest. If you have editing or content needs on your website or for your books, articles, blogs, or columns, please visit her website to see details and more examples of her work, the services she offers, and contact information. http://kdavis1836.wixsite.com/luminiwrites




I contacted the founders of Divine Equine, Nell and Bill Ward, for an interview about their mission in life ministered through therapeutic horseback riding for children and people with disabilities. The services Divine Equine offers have become life-saving to many families in Texomaland since Nell founded her center in February 2012.

How did the idea for therapeutic horse riding evolve?

Nell: When I was in college studying educational psychology and behavioral psychology, I wanted to open a “dude” ranch for the disabled children. While dreaming of the place, my husband and I were on active duty in the armed forces and stationed in Kentucky. My husband, Bill, said we should wait and think about it when we move back home to Texas.

One day at church, I listened to a woman’s devotion on how horses and her dad saved her life after becoming wheelchair-bound from a car wreck at the age of 16. She said that if it wasn’t for her dad putting her back in the saddle to continue riding, she would have died. She put the idea in my head that horses, which I love, could be used as therapy to help others.

I sat in the church pew and just listened to her testimony and began to think how the horses had contributed to my life. We lost two children to MAS, Muscular Atrophy Syndrome. We lost both in the early 1980s before the age of two. While going through this and learning how to care for them and listening to other parents talk about their struggles, I learned that there wasn’t anything out there other than a sterile type of therapy for them. I started noticing how horses were affecting my life and how they made me feel. Then I started seeing the difference in the dynamics of our home when my husband, a Special Forces Green Beret, who is now a Retired Disabled Veteran, came back from missions cold, angry, hard, and distant. After spending time with the horses, his mood became soft, warm, inviting, and patient and his old self came back.

We also had foster children and noticed that they were more engaging and not as emotional after being with the horses. So, I started researching to learn more and found PATH International. I went to volunteer at a center in McKinney, Texas, called ManeGait to see and learn what it was all about and found that it was a lot like what I had been doing all along, but I did not know it. To see the children’s faces and hear their testimonies on why they loved riding, I knew right then and there this was what I wanted to offer my community.

What was it like running Divine Equine in the beginning?

Nell: Very frustrating. I doubted my ability to have me as my boss. That has been my major obstacle and learning how to ask for help from others. When you see a smile, an accomplishment met, tears of excitement that a horse comes to the children when they called and followed them like a puppy or be able to make the horse listen…To see the parents…To see a child they thought could not do, do… Or to hear a child of four-years-old speak for the first time, or a PTSD soldier tell his/her story when they could not before, to see the changes, the doubt, frustration, and the joy it brings them…Knowing my horses helped them and that there is a center here in Grayson County, Texas, for them, makes it all worthwhile.

What times of the year do you hold sessions?

Nell: Fall, Spring, and Summer: 10 in the weeks fall and spring and 7 weeks in the summer, 27 weeks total. We are getting a climate-controlled arena, so sessions could be longer in the future.

How many counties do you serve?

Nell: We serve Grayson, Fannin, Cook, Collin, TX, and Bryan, OK

Where do your donations and financing come from?

Nell: We ask all riders to pay. We seek grants, community donations, Facebook, and organizational donations.

How many staff members do you have?

Nell: We have three part-time Instructors, one instructor in training, and a director.

What are PATH International Certified Instructors?

Nell: Professional Associated Therapeutic Horsemanship Instructors receive in-depth training on how to teach the disabled community on horses. They are certified to teach in specialty areas: horseback, vaulting, competition, equine-assisted therapy, jumping, and behavioral psychotherapy.

How do people attain that certification?

Nell: If you love equines and working with people with disabilities, you must be 18-years of age to begin training. Interested people can contact www.PATHIntl.org and speak to someone to get started. Become a volunteer and see what it is all about!

Do you sponsor internships for college students on a path to work with disabled people?

Nell: We work with all schools and college students to get in their community service hours.

What are your class levels?

Nell: Basic Horsemanship Riding to children aged four and up, at-risk youth, adults, and our PTSD Veterans. 

What are the checklists of goals for each level?

Nell: The clients determine their goals, and we help them to reach them.

What types of disabilities do you work with?

Nell: All clients must have a physician prescription and pass a physical. Some disabilities might not be conducive to horseback riding. This where a physician can determine if they feel the client would benefit from Equine Assisted Therapy.

Some of the disabilities can be; ADD, Autism, Multiple Sclerosis, Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, Brain Injuries, Chemical Abuse, Learn Disabilities, Visual Impairments, Amputee, Down Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy, Spinal Cord Injuries, Cardiovascular accident/stroke Emotional Disabilities, Hearing, and PTSD.

Disabled children can go to school until they are in their 20s, but after they graduate, there are very limited activities available or continuing education. We have them come here for four to five hours a day where we teach them life skills, accountability, and give the parents a few hours to themselves.

We also offer day outings for our school’s Special Educational Programs.

Do you have waiting lists for students?

Nell: We did, but we just hired another instructor part-time.

Please tell us more about your disabled veterans program?

Nell: Currently we have three veterans that ride here. We also have the Bonham Recreational Veterans Program PTSD and Trauma Track Veterans coming here two times a month. We let the horse do the therapy. We are here to maintain safety and teach them how to communicate with the horse. Our Veterans need a DD214 to ride. Also, they need to come with a physician’s referral and physical. We do not ask any type of payment from our Veterans; we feel that they have paid their way. We encourage our veterans to volunteer and to ride. We are great listeners and horses don’t tell your secrets. The Veterans that come here from the VA come from all over the United States to learn how to find their way back home.

How often do you hold chuck wagon events?

Nell: We have not had one in several years. We would love to do it again. We hold a fundraiser on the first Saturday of May: The May Day of the Roses Kentucky Derby Race where we raise money for the center’s needs.

How has Divine Equine grown in seven years?

Nell: From a dream to reality, we currently have over 50 riders a month.

How far away are you from building your climate-controlled arena?

Nell: I wish I could say tomorrow. A climate-controlled arena costs in the millions. I have not found out how to reach that goal yet.

Besides the climate-controlled arena, what is in store for Divine Equine’s future?

Nell: Currently a group of businessmen from Texas’s Someone Say Whiskey and Oklahoma’s Bourbon Connoisseurs organizations have come together to do a Red River Shootout Fundraiser for us. They are vying to see which one can raise the most money to buy a cover for our small arena. A cover will prevent us from closing during inclement weather.

How can the community become involved?

Nell: We need the community in so many ways from spreading our message to helping with costs.

We need you; our horses need you; and our clients need you from helping them in a lesson, cleaning the stalls, feeding the horses, to riding them for exercise and discipline. You can push a broom or walk a horse; our riders cannot do this without your help. We need two hours of time from volunteers, and it is so rewarding.

In cost: Feed is our biggest expense, but medical expenses can top them in a heartbeat.

Divine Equine is Supported by:

The Texoma Health Foundation through Reba’s House
Texas Women’s Gift Exchange
The Dennison Service League
Texoma Medical Hospital Volunteer Staff

Nell: Just knowing the community believes in us and wants to see us succeed means the world to Divine Equine.

All Donations Are Tax-Deductible

Events

Red River Shoot Out Fundraiser Competition Celebration

Saturday, September 21, 2019 5pm-10pm
3111 Loy Lake Rd. Denison, Texas

Raffles include 14 bottles and two gift cards. The estimated value of the bottles is $1,925. All donations are tax-deductible.

Texas and Oklahoma Whiskey Businessmen are coming together to help raise our roof!

Hotel accommodations with shuttles to and from for the event

 

The May Day of the Roses Kentucky Derby Race

Saturday, May 3, 2020

Annual Innagural Gala: A Roaring Good Time Benefiting Divine Equine Therapeutic Riding Center

Friday, February 7, 2020

One Preston Center

Gunter, Texas

Contact Information

https://divineequineriding.org/

Rider Information

https://divineequineriding.org/riders-information

Schedule

https://divineequineriding.org/contact-us

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/divineequineriding.org/

 

 




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Lake Texoma Fishing Report from TPWD (Dec. 11)

GOOD. Water stained; 62-64 degrees; 1.90’ high. Striped bass continue to be excellent using slabs, swimbaits, and live bait in deeper water. Largemouth bass are good drifting live baits. Crappie are fair on minnows and jigs around large structure in shallow water. Catfish are fair on live shrimp, cut bait, and minnows.