Owner and founder Kristin Foree Tobias describes her therapeutic riding program as “a dream come true”.
“It really is my passion … marrying social services and horses, which are my two loves,” Tobias said. “I grew up with horses and worked with horses in a professional capacity. One day my boss had me work with a child with developmental needs … to see the transformation and how being on the horse freed her mind … well I just knew this was what I wanted to do. I saw the need here in Los Alamos and opened The Gifted Horse Inc. (TGH).”
The concept for TGH has evolved over the last 15 years, but the nonprofit only came to exist in Los Alamos about a year ago, she said.
Tobias previously worked as a riding instructor and horse trainer at a hunter jumper barn in northern California and has an extensive clinical background working with individuals with developmental disorders and mental illnesses.
“I’ve always wanted to start my own equine facilitated therapy program, simply because I know just how effective it is, and I truly believe in it as a means of really helping people,” Tobias said. “At the core of the program is therapeutic riding, helping all individuals achieve physical, mental and emotional growth.”
Tobias is a PATH (professional alliance of therapeutic horseman) International Certified Instructor, which allows her to work with all individuals on horseback, including those with special needs.
“We can adapt horseback riding to essentially any person and any need,” she said. “This service is individualized and focused on children and adults with developmental or physical disabilities.”
The program has five horses at the North Mesa Stables, each with special skill sets to aid individuals in their unique goals. That is not to say the program is limited to certain individuals, Tobias said. She also tailors programs to meet the needs of organizations. This summer she will work in collaboration with both the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board and The Family YMCA, running therapeutic riding retreats for kids considered “at risk” for varying reasons.
The program also offers private and semi-private riding lessons to folks 5 years old and up.
“Riding horses stimulates physical and mental health and our barn doors are open to all who could benefit,” TGH Program Director Miranda Parga said.
Parga began working as a volunteer six months ago for TGH and was offered a permanent position in May. She is in training to achieve her PATH instructor certification.
“A huge part of TGH is our volunteers, not only could we not make the program work without them, but they help make the barn feel like its own little community,” Tobias said. “The people who have stepped up to help this program succeed continue to blow me away with their dedication, everyone from the board of directors, the volunteers, and our fellow horse people. It’s been truly humbling, but has reinforced what I’ve always known, which is that this community is amazing and also … that we need something like TGH here.”
TGH is fundraising to purchase a ramp that will allow individuals who use wheelchairs, walkers or canes to mount the horses.
To learn more or donate toward the ramp, call Tobias at 505.500.7255.
Program Director Miranda Parga receives a nuzzle from Buddy the horse. Photo by Jenn Bartram/ladailypost.com
Ada Mjolsness, 8, receives assistance from Kristin Foree Tobias to ride Buddy the horse. Photo by Jenn Bartram/ladailypost.com
Ada Mjolsness, 8, works to direct Buddy the horse through an exercise. Photo by Jenn Bartram/ladailypost.com
Kadin Hansel 10 learns proper preparation from Tobias before riding Eli. Photo by Jenn Bartram/ladailypost.com
Robyn Carpenter, 11, brushes Stella the horse in preparation for a ride. Photo by Jenn Bartram/ladailypost.com
Kristin Foree Tobias instructs Robyn Carpenter, 11, through a new exercise. Photo by Jenn Bartram/ladailypost.com
Robyn Carpenter, 11, completes an exercise task. Photo by Jenn Bartram/ladailypost.com