THOMASVILLE, GA (WALB) - Children with special needs are getting out of the classroom and onto the saddle.
One southwest Georgia non-profit organization called Hands & Hearts for Horses brings horses and humans together.
It may look like an ordinary horseback riding lesson.
But when you hear the stories behind each rider, you realize how special these horses truly are.
Executive Director Frances Parker said, “It really is a life-changing experience to come and see what we do here.”
What started with three horses and a few riders, has grown into 14 therapy horses helping more than 100 children and adults with special needs to improve their balance, coordination, and reflexes.
Program Director Brigitte Aldredge said, “There's just something special between a horse, their attitude and how they adapt to that child.”
Teddy, a 30-year-old Norwegian Fjord, works with many of the children.
But most importantly, he's the reason behind their smiles.
Aldredge said, “The teachers have said they've really never seen that child smile, until they come out and ride. So it really does affect them emotionally.”
Therapeutic riding lessons also include exercises to teach math and reading skills.
Professionals say horses are the only animals that mimic the human walk, which makes them perfect for people experiencing physical challenges, as well.
Parker said, “It makes you appreciate your life and how we live it. It makes you appreciate how enthusiastic they all are. These children love these horses, and our instructors are dedicated to these children.”
Children are never turned down based on their families' ability to pay, making support from the community critical.
Hands & Hearts for Horses is looking for volunteers to experience the joy these horses bring to each rider's life.
If you would like to donate or volunteer, go to
to learn about their upcoming volunteer orientation and fundraising events.