Weston's Story

 Manna Pro and SpiritHorse Equine Assisted Therapy

It’s been three years since Weston, 8, saddled up for his first equine-assisted therapy session at SpiritHorse-certified Heavenly Hooves Therapeutic & Recreational Riding Center in Farmersville, Texas. Weston has a diagnosis called Emanuel Syndrome, a rare chromosomal disorder that affects his muscle growth, sensory processing, balance and communication skills. After traditional treatments hadn’t yielded encouraging improvements, his mom started looking for alternative treatment options. It was then that she learned about equine-assisted therapy from a member of their church.

When he first started with the Heavenly Hooves team in 2019, Weston’s goals included developing strength and balance, with hopes for him to become more independent and be able to express himself. He not only met these ambitious targets, but he galloped past them.

Working with SpiritHorse’s academically accredited programs, trainers at Heavenly Hooves have helped Weston strengthen his core muscle groups, allowing him to sit up in the saddle under his own power, and nearly stand.

For a child who was over a year old before he was able to sit up on his own, these milestones had seemed untenable before starting equine-assisted therapy with Heavenly Hooves. Weston’s fiercely spirited personality has begun to shine even brighter as he becomes more independent and communicative, pushing the limits beyond what he, his family and the trainers might have imagined.

When Weston first started riding, he relied on instructors to hold him upright and steady. Today, he insists on supporting himself while riding Lucy, his favorite steed, and is actively initiating contact – both physical and eye – with trainers when he needs a helping hand. Because of how his condition impacts his sensory processes, both types of contact with others were major challenges when he started riding.

During his hour-long sessions, Weston is becoming an increasingly involved participant, communicating with trainers and Lucy about what he wants to do and when he’s comfortable doing things on his own. Lynn Turner, who founded Heavenly Hooves with her husband Russell, has been working with Weston since he first came to the center. Turner, who holds degrees in counseling and psychology in addition to her SpiritHorse qualifications, remarked at the incredible progress Weston has made:

“Weston’s progress is nothing short of miraculous. We’ve been so blessed to see his extraordinary personality emerge as he’s grown more confident in his own capabilities. He loves to take charge and is communicating what he wants to do; he’s holding the reins and sitting up all on his own. Weston is showing us the tremendous benefits of equine-assisted therapy.”

Interacting with horses, including care and saddling, has helped Weston develop key muscles. The constant muscle activation needed for horseback riding means he is working every one of these muscles without realizing it. His physical therapists no longer think balance is an issue for him and have seen significant leaps in his muscle density. Weston continues to take on longer riding periods as his strength and confidence develop at this accelerating rate. The more Weston improves, the more he wants to push.

After seeing her son’s incredible progress, Weston’s mom regularly recommends equine-assisted therapy to other families struggling with similar conditions.

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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.