Our Riders’ Stories

EllieApril-Ellie 2 (2)

“Every Saturday morning we ask Ellie when she wakes up, ‘what day is it?’ An incredible smile blossoms across her face and she wiggles two fingers on the top of her head. This is her sign, partly based in ASL and partly her own invention, for her favorite activity of the week: horses! Ellie has a rare genetic mutation on her KAT6A gene that expresses itself most prominently in extremely delayed speech, generally low muscle tone, and sensory seeking and aversion behaviors. Her work at PoVa addresses all of these. For Ellie, even touching the horse (her favorite animal second to zebras–which are basically just horses with cool patterns) is an accomplishment of note.

Over the past few months at PoVa, it has been incredible to see her balance, posture and confidence improve while riding. She already seems like quite the little cowgirl. Our family has never been ‘horse people,’ but I think Ellie is destined to teach us all how to ride over the next several years.” -David


AdanAdan Throwing

“We called PoVa when our son, Adan, was having a difficult time adjusting to life and being a happy 7-year-old boy. Adan was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum at 3 and has made great strides through consistent therapy and socialization.

Since he has started riding, we have seen things in him we have never seen before. For one, Adan finally looks forward to something! He can’t wait until he can get on his horse and rides! His weekly countdown starts after we drive away from the Ranch. From the second he gets on his horse to the second he gets off, his face is all smiles. Adan’s teachers have been noting an increase in confidence in school and a reduced amount of tears! He has ventured out around the house, and he rode a skateboard for the first time. The biggest notice we have seen is in his eating habits. For the first time in his life, he tries things on his own (without barter or bribe). He now loves different kinds of chicken, grapes, and donuts! While these might seem like tiny gains to some, for us, they are mighty leaps. We are optimistic that he will continue to make great strides and have a chance to catch up on all he has missed. We can’t wait to see what other doors Adan may unlock in the near future.” -Kristen 



Erfan and his family recently moved to Canada. 

“We made it here in Calgary in the middle of a flood. Fortunately our place was not affected by the flood and we are settling down. Erfan is missing you guys at POVA and we are too! We are looking around to see if we could find a horseback riding center for Erfan but I am not sure if we could find one with even close quality compared to POVA. You are awesome!” -Parham



Calista has been riding at PoVa since July, 2012.

Calista has been doing hippotherapy for just over a year at PoVa.  Prior to being at PoVa, she did hippotherapy at another therapeutic riding facility in Lakeside for four years.  I can’t tell you how much she looks forward to Saturday mornings so she can see and ride “her” horse.

That is the first thing she asks the minute her eyes open every single morning, “Is today horse day?”  She has bonded so beautifully with Sasha (she loves all of the horses and looks forward to seeing them, but she especially loves the horse she regularly rides on).  She becomes a different person when she’s riding Sasha.  You can hear her laugh from miles away.  She becomes confident, outgoing, and sure of herself.  She loves when she has the opportunity to groom (and especially bathe) any of the horses.  The interaction is wonderful to watch, not just with the horses, but how she communicates with the instructors and volunteers as well when she is with a horse.

She hasn’t ever taken part in sports or other activities because of her disabilities, so having a “cool” sport like riding a horse has given her self-confidence a huge boost.  She is very proud to tell anyone that will listen that she rides her horse every Saturday.  In addition to the social improvements, there have also been huge improvements in her strength (core especially), flexibility and stability.  She has become very strong, and I attribute much of this to her riding.

The volunteers are amazing!!  I love that we work with the same volunteers every week so we get to know them, and they get to know Calista.  It’s obvious that safety is highly regarded, and I appreciate that.  Calista has a seizure disorder and she can have a seizure at any time.  Knowing that she has very competent people working with her, and that they never take their eyes or hands off of her, gives me as the parent a sense of calm when she is riding.  The horses are the best we’ve seen.  They are gentle, sweet and calm.  PoVa has become a very important part of our family, and we are so thankful for everyone that has touched Calista’s and our family’s lives!!” – Sherri



Cecily has been riding at PoVa since June, 2011. 

“Cecily is a daily reminder that life is not easy, or fair or guaranteed.

She is a reminder to make each day special and to try, try, try…

She tries so very hard and she never gives up.  She is so committed and we celebrate her success.  She is now riding her horse like a champion!  We credit PoVa with building up her core strength so she can walk! She sits so tall on “her horse” Miss Blue Bell and she is so proud when she walks into the ranch on her own two feet!  She is exploring her world in ways I only dreamed of… and it is better than anything I could have wished for.

Her doctor is a believer after witnessing Cecily’s amazing progress, which we accredit to PoVa.”



There really aren’t words to describe how much PoVa means to us. It is absolutely amazing to see the difference riding makes in Billy’s life. His speech, problem solving skills and confidence have improved so much and all while having fun!

While he is riding he looks at me with the biggest smile on his face. I can tell he is so proud of himself. In the past few months he has developed this wonderful relationship with his teacher Jessica. I describe their connection as “magic.” We look forward to many more years here. Thank you!!” – Nancy