Crystal's Story

Manna Pro and Spirit Horse International Equine Assisted Therapy 

In the closing weeks of 2021, Crystal, 43, arrived at Stable-Spirit in Rose City, Texas, for her first SpiritHorse-certified equine-assisted therapy session. Timid and shy at the time, over the last year she has blossomed into a social butterfly with freshly minted self-confidence and dramatically improved strength and balance. Crystal and her family had gone through the paces of more traditional treatment options for years before her mom found Stable-Spirit through a mutual friend and decided equine-assisted therapy could be just the thing for Crystal.

Crystal is impacted by an intellectual disability, seizure disorder and anxiety, as well as other challenges that severely influence her balance, flexibility, memory, strength and social skills. Before coming to Stable-Spirit, Crystal spent most of her time at home with her family or on the occasional excursion to the local bowling alley. Limited by her condition, Crystal faced an uphill battle when it came to developing social connections and confidence.

One year since beginning equine-assisted therapy, Crystal is now riding on her own with little to no guidance and is an active participant with volunteers, family members and everyone else who is lucky enough to meet her. Crystal and Instructor/Volunteer Coordinator Laura McElhinney focus their time with Josie, the four-legged member of their team, on engaging therapeutic activities and exercises that in different conditions can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining to a point where sustained participation would be difficult.

Beyond riding around Stable-Spirit’s outdoor area, Crystal engages with all stages of the equine experience. Each weekly hour-long session begins with grooming and saddling Josie, developing basic motor skills and cognition. Combined with the curated exercises Laura leads during rides, Crystal doesn’t feel like she’s in therapy, which keeps her engaged and encouraged.

“It’s been amazing to see Crystal grow over the past year. She’s shown us her incredible tenacity and spirit, and her love of life. It’s hard to believe how far she’s come in such a short time with her balance, strength and communication; it’s like night and day from when she started.” –Instructor Laura McElhinney

Before getting involved in this type of therapy from SpiritHorse, Laura was an esteemed equestrian trainer who regularly competed in dressage, culminating in an appearance at U.S. Olympic trials. She eventually made the move to volunteering and advocacy, hoping to make a difference in her community by sharing her love of horses and inviting others to experience their healing capabilities.

Beyond the rewarding improvements to her strength and balance, Crystal’s most impactful developments are highlighted in her social skills. Constant engagement with Laura and Josie during their weekly sessions has helped Crystal become more comfortable interacting with others. She has also started regularly going out to support local sports and community events.

Encouraged by her results, Crystal and her mother love recommending equine-assisted therapy to anyone experiencing the wide range of conditions SpiritHorse’s programs can support. They have no plans to stop and hope Crystal can continue to grow stronger and more confident.

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About Manna Pro and SpiritHorse’s Partnership

Manna Pro is proud to support SpiritHorse as a primary sponsor. Manna Pro nurtures the lives of animals, which in turn nurtures the lives of people. This mission aligns with SpiritHorse, an international organization focused on training and certifying trainers and centers across the globe to bring equine-assisted therapy access to all who can benefit. SpiritHorse has provided equine-assisted therapy and certification since 2002. Its founder believed in the powerful impact of interacting with horses for individuals with special needs. Those with developmental disabilities, PTSD and countless other afflictions have seen incredible results.