It all started back in 1999. Becky Sweeney said her family felt called by God to open up a horse farm where children could ride horses and be healed.
Sweeney said her mother built the farm with that in mind. Sweeney is now in charge of Happy Hooves, a non-profit therapeutic equestrian center and boarding stables.
Happy Hooves started in 2001.
The program is part of Eden Farms where the staff also offer horse rides for general public, trail rides, boarding and lessons.
The horses are used for both therapeutic riding and trail rides. The farm gets the word out mostly by word of mouth, family connections and other special needs research groups.
Eden Farms looks for horses that have retired, that have been there and done that in the racing world, are in good health and those that are conditioned and ready to ride.
This means the horses know how to steer, stop, start and behave themselves.
“That’s what we need them to start with so they can adjust to each rider with special needs,” Sweeney said.
That’s how a boy named Walker Sowles found Rose.
Walker’s mother Paige Sowles tells us Walker has autism and at one time it was so severe he couldn’t do anything but therapy and school work and he wasn’t happy.
“He went to talking and saying typical 2-year-old words to screaming. That’s all he did was scream,” she said.
Then Walker met Rose.
Rose was a show jumping horse competing in Aiken, Tryon, Landrum and Atlanta. Rose donated to the program and began to work with Walker.
“The first time he ever rode he got in the car on the way home fell asleep. He hadn’t done that in years and all the sensory issues, the overload, it took it away,” said Paige.
Each riding lesson helps each special needs rider specifically. When Walker takes care of Rose, brushes her, picks out a saddle and rides her, he can learn skills that translate into his everyday life.
Sweeney said the program is supported by the Dabo Swinney “All in Foundation” and the Pickens county United Way.
They count on individual donations, community support, and volunteers.
If you’d like to help support Happy Hooves click here.